PATH is working with partners in India, China, and elsewhere to advance promising new rotavirus vaccines.
Vaccines are critical to protecting children everywhere
Why is diarrhea a leading killer of children less than five years old in the developing world? It doesn’t have to be, especially if these children can get a rotavirus vaccine.
Poor sanitation, insufficient water treatment systems, and lack of access to appropriate medical care and life-saving vaccines translate into an estimated 800,000 deaths of children under five and millions more hospitalizations from severe, dehydrating diarrhea every year. While dozens of pathogens can cause diarrhea, rotavirus is one of the most deadly.
Many cases of diarrhea can be prevented through improved sanitation or treated with simple oral rehydration therapy, but severe rotavirus is not responsive to these traditional measures. The virus is so contagious and resilient that traditional hygiene measures—like encouraging hand washing and providing clean water—just don’t work well enough. And rotavirus infection often causes vomiting, which makes oral rehydration therapy far less effective. For these reasons, vaccination is the best hope for saving the lives of children in the developing world. Unfortunately, rotavirus vaccines are not yet widely available or affordable for most of them.
PATH’s philosophy is simple: children in the developing world should have access to safe, effective, and affordable vaccines as quickly as possible. That’s why we’re working on two fronts, increasing access to and effectiveness of existing commercial rotavirus vaccines worldwide and speeding the development of safe, effective, and more affordable new rotavirus vaccines.
Encouraging new vaccines
Hospital diarrhea wards in Nicaragua are now nearly empty, thanks to lifesaving rotavirus vaccine. Watch the video.
Two rotavirus vaccines are available and are recommended for global use by the World Health Organization. PATH is providing technical support to countries in Africa and Asia interested in introducing these commercial vaccines into their national immunization programs. New vaccines and suppliers will be essential to keep pace with the market as it continues to grow. In addition to increasing available supply, new vaccines mean more competition, which will help make all of the rotavirus vaccines on the market more affordable.
PATH collaborates with emerging-country vaccine manufacturers to develop promising candidates into safe, effective, and affordable rotavirus vaccines. We work closely with these companies in clinical development, formulation, process development and manufacturing, and compliance with national and World Health Organization regulations, streamlining the development process and allowing these vaccines to become licensed more quickly.
In addition, PATH supportsa “shared technology platform” that is available to all emerging-country manufacturers actively developing the bovine-human reassortant vaccine, licensed from the US National Institutes of Health. This toolbox of technologies, training, methodologies, and material is designed to meet common needs among manufacturers and maximize sharing of information and knowledge.
Lasting changeToday, nearly every child in the world, rich or poor, is at risk of rotavirus infection—but an overwhelming majority of rotavirus-related deaths occur in the developing world. By accelerating the development of promising new vaccine candidates, PATH and our partners are striving to right these imbalances, providing children in poor countries with options for protection that are already readily available to children in wealthier ones.
Photos, from top: Umit Kartoglu, PATH.