RVF Rotavirus Vaccination Program Already Saving Lives in Gaza and the West Bank

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RVF’s Medical Director, Wolfgang Rennert, MD, led an epidemiological study recently published by Oxford University Press in the Journal of Public Health on the impact of the rotavirus vaccine on the incidence and prevalence of life-threatening rotavirus disease in the West Bank and Gaza. With close cooperation of the local Ministry of Health and Caritas hospital, data was collected from both Gaza and the West Bank. The study determined that 18 months after introducing the rotavirus vaccine in the Palestinian Territories, the rotavirus vaccination program has already reduced the incidence of rotavirus disease in young children under 5 by over 30% and the prevalence of rotavirus in stool samples by over 60%, successfully preventing a significant percentage of this life-threatening diarrheal disease -even in older children who did not receive the vaccine themselves. It is likely that the rates of rotavirus infection will continue to decrease as the vaccination continues.


The abstract and link to the full article are below:

Introducing childhood immunization poses challenges in environments of societal fragility. The Palestinian territories (Pt) are considered ‘fragile’ because of their lack of political, economic and territorial sovereignty. Poverty is rife, infant mortality high, and diseases associated with overcrowding widespread. Under these circumstances the Rostropovich Vishneskaya Foundation (RVF) has assembled a network of public and private stakeholders to introduce a country-wide rotavirus immunization program.

The incidence of diarrhea was determined for 18 months before and 18 months after the introduction of rotavirus vaccine among all children younger than 5 years presenting to outpatient clinics in Gaza with three or more loose stools per day. Simultaneously the prevalence of rotavirus was established by rotavirus antigen detection in stool samples collected from children younger than 3 years at Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem during the corresponding time periods.

Within 12 months 97.4% immunization coverage was achieved. The incidence of diarrhea dropped by 32.2%, while the prevalence of rotavirus in stool samples decreased by 64.6% throughout the following year.

In environments of economic or political instability private–public partnerships for the introduction of comprehensive vaccination programs can work based on close collaboration, shared vision, flexibility and inter-organizational trust.

The  article Abstract on the website of  Journal of Public Health is linked here.