Diarrhoeal diseases are ranked the third major cause of childhood mortality in South African children less than 5years, where the majority of deaths are among black children. Acute severe dehydrating rotavirus diarrhoea remains an important contributor towards childhood mortality and morbidity and has been well documented in South Africa. As the preventive strategy to control rotavirus diarrhoea, South Africa became the first country in the WHO African Region to adopt the rotavirus vaccine in the national childhood immunisation programme in August 2009. The rotavirus vaccine in use, Rotarix®, GSK Biologicals, is given at 6 and 14weeks of age, along with other vaccines as part of Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI). Studies which facilitated the introduction of rotavirus vaccine in South Africa included the burden of rotavirus disease and strain surveillance, economic burden of rotavirus infection and clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates. This paper reviews the epidemiology of rotavirus in South Africa, outlines some of the steps followed to introduce rotavirus vaccine in the EPI, and highlights the early positive impact of vaccination in reducing the rotavirus burden of disease based on the post-marketing surveillance studies at Dr George Mukhari hospital, a sentinel site at University of Limpopo teaching hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, which has conducted rotavirus surveillance for >20years.
- Rotavirus vaccine
- South Africa
- Vaccine efficacy, Burden of disease