Rotavirus is a known cause of diarrhoeal diseases in young children. Given this, several doctors have earlier expressed concern that a simple vaccine found to be effective against the virus has yet to be implemented into the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). Taking note of this, the Karnataka state Health Department announced that from the third week of August, the Rotavirus vaccine would be included in the immunisation schedule for children.
This virus is relatively common and can live outside the body for several days. Onset of the infection is seen within a few days of exposure to the virus. Children usually present with mild fever, diarrhoea, and vomiting. If the infection is not treated, it has been noted to cause deaths in young children, particularly those within 5 years of age.
The vaccine which reportedly costs upto Rs 600 in private hospitals, will now be made free of cost. It will be administered to babies at six, 10 and 14 weeks of age. This is the age group among whom the infection is most commonly seen. According to a study by the World Health Organisation which was first published in 2013, 334,000 infant deaths out of over 2 million, are largely attributed to diarrhoeal diseases such as infections caused by Rotavirus.
Another study published in 2016 showed that in Karnataka alone, Rotavirus was noted to be the most common pathogenic agent which was responsible for most diarrhoeal diseases in young children.
Often, children who present with diarrhoea are prescribed antibiotics. However in the case of the Rotavirus, this would not prove to be helpful as antibiotics are only effective against bacteria and not viruses. The vaccine, on the other hand, has been shown to be extremely effective in protecting against the viral infection. As recently as 2018, three forms of the vaccine which are most frequently administered — RV1, RV5, and Rotovac- were found to be highly potent against the virus.