Countries are being urged to introduce a vaccine that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children every year.

Around half a million children die annually from diarrhoeal disease, with around half of these deaths – 213,000 – attributed to one particular illness: rotavirus.

The virus, which was only identified in the 1970s, affects children all over the world but is particularly devastating in poorer countries where health services are weaker.

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It used to be that every child living in the developing world contracted rotavirusat least once before his or her fifth birthday. (Rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration and turn fatal if left untreated.)  And every year, 350,000 to 600,000 children — about one in 300 — would die as a result. 

We've come a long way since then. After the rotavirus vaccine was developed and distributed, the number of cases plunged dramatically, saving hundreds of thousands of young lives and keeping millions more out of the hospital.

How was so much suffering avoided? Through the power of vaccines.

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Geneva-based Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, will provide US$60 million over the next two years to implement an immunisation programme in the country, largely focusing on cold chain facilities, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

“We are planning to set up more cold chain facilities this year. Cold storage is a vital part of the expanded immunisation programme. Vaccines must be stored in electronic or solar refrigerators to maintain the potency of the vaccine,” Dr Aung Kyaw Moe, assistant director of the Department of Public Health, told The Myanmar Times Monday.

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When I started my career in the 1970’s, I saw children die every day from severe diarrheal disease. Today, diarrhea is still responsible for half a million deaths in children under 5 worldwide. That is far too many—acute diarrhea is both preventable and treatable.

Many of these deaths occur because our prevention tools have yet to reach the world’s vulnerable children. The leading cause of severe diarrhea globally is rotavirus, which countries have taken steps to address. After one of the fastest global rollout campaigns in history, 93 countries (home to 1/3 of the world’s children) now include rotavirus vaccines in their national immunization programs.

Introducing vaccines will not completely solve the problem—vaccine coverage must be improved, as must coverage of oral rehydration therapy and zinc supplementation to further reduce the number of deaths and serious illness. Yet, the progress has been remarkable.

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Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz has announced the induction of Rota Vaccine in the country’s immunization program, a statement from Ministry of Public Health said on Saturday.

“I would like to share the great news of introduction of the 13th antigen in our routine immunization program. From today, onward Rota vaccine will be added to our immunization program against fatal diarrheal diseases caused by rotavirus,” he told a gathering marking the launch of Rota Vaccine here.

The minister said In order to introduce Rota vaccines two conditions must be fulfilled, first expansion of its could chain capacity and provision of financial share in the form of co-finance to the GAVI.

Ministry of public healthy in close cooperation with its partners WHO and UNICEF had expanded cold chain capacity in the country, he said.

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Bharat Biotech today announced that the World Health Organization (WHO Geneva) has awarded prequalification to the developing world’s first rotavirus vaccine, ROTAVAC®. This vaccine to prevent infant deaths and hospitalizations due to rotavirus diarrhea was launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi in New Delhi in March 2015 and is one of the first novel vaccines to be developed completely from a developing world country. WHO Prequalification is necessary for UN agencies and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to purchase the vaccine in partnership with developing countries and will help accelerate availability of the ROTAVAC® to the developing countries with the highest burden of disease. India has introduced ROTAVAC® into its national immunization program during 2016, with ~ 35 million doses delivered till date. “We are honored and delighted to become the first rotavirus vaccine from the developing world and India to be WHO Prequalified. We feel proud to dedicate this innovated in India and Made in India vaccine to the world.