Rotavirus vaccines are finally available, and introducing them into the routine vaccination schedule will have a significant impact on the health of children
After a dramatic false start, oral rotavirus vaccines are now available to prevent severe, dehydrating diarrhoea in small children. Rotavirus infection in children can be as severe as cholera in adults, but affects a group who cannot complain. Since its discovery in Australia in 1973, rotavirus has become accepted as the single most common cause of severe diarrhoea in children worldwide. It still kills over 500 000 young children each year. In Australia, it is estimated that 10 000 children require hospitalisation annually1,2 (more than 4000 actually coded for proven rotavirus3), and as Schultz reports in this issue of the Journal, the impact on Indigenous children is especially severe.4 Oral rehydration has greatly reduced mortality, but the World Health Organization recognises the potential of rotavirus vaccines to further reduce under-5-year mortality rates, Goal 4 of the Millenium Development Goals.5
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