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Rotavirus vaccination also protects children who have not been immunised

(Vienna, 25 Feb. 2011) Rotavirus vaccination works. In Austria it has led to a drastic reduction in hospital admissions of children suffering from acute diarrhoea caused by rotavirus infection. And in the form of "herd immunity" it even protects unvaccinated babies because the pathogens are no longer in "circulation" so often. This has now been proven by experts from the Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine at MedUni Vienna under Herwig Kollaritsch.

The scientists have published their study in the medical journal "Vaccine". The background: in August 2007, as part of the free vaccination programme for children in Austria, widespread use of the vaccine against rotavirus infections began. In babies in particular the pathogens cause acute diarrhoea, which can even lead to hospitalisation.

Worldwide there are 111 million rotavirus infections each year in children up to the age of five, with 2.8 million cases in Europe. While poor medical care in developing countries is the reason for the majority of the around 440,000 deaths worldwide, the mortality rate in Austria, with an estimated annual figure of 44,900 infections, was 1:54,000. But if the children are taken to hospital, costs of 1,500 to 2,400 euros can be expected. For outpatient (note: medical) care the costs are 140 to 200 euros. The indirect costs if the mother stays at home for two days are also over 100 euros at least. Every year as many as 5,000 children were once taken to hospital in Austria with acute rotavirus intestinal infections. That might have cost around ten million euros.

Rotavirus vaccination has meant a successful battle against this problem in Austria though. Kollaritsch explains: "In 2008, 87 percent of children were already vaccinated to protect them against infection. At the same time the number of hospital admissions fell by 74 percent among the age group of children who could be vaccinated in the observation period.