Good news: Free Rotavirus vaccine to be introduced in Kenya this July

My friend got a high paying job outside the country and just 3 days to her departure to go and grab the once in a lifetime opportunity, her son, who she had left under the care of her mom upcountry, developed rotavirus! Though she finally traveled, she left her very sick son admitted  at the hospital, under the care of her old mother- you can imagine the anguish and the inconveniences that the damn rotavirus caused to my friend.

That is not the end of my rotavirus stories! My classmate missed her end of semester exams because that very day that we were to start our exams, her son was admitted at Mater Hospital following chaotic diarrhea and vomiting due to Rotavirus! She had to wait until  when the exams could be offered again for her to take them with a different class- it took her a whole academic year – inconveniencing right?

Any mom, whether a working or a stay-at-home mom who has had a sick child before will agree with me that sickness in children not only causes emotional and psychological pain but it is inconveniencing and agonizing as well to watch your baby suffer yet you are too helpless to ease his/ her pain.

But  parents can breathe a sigh of relief because for the first time, rotavirus vaccine is being introduced in Kenya free of charge at health facilities in July this year. Announcing the good news in a Nairobi hotel, Dr. Collins Tabu from the Ministry of Health’s Unit of Vaccines and Immunization Services (UVIS)  said that this crucial vaccine targeting 1.4 million children under the age of 1 year is a 2 dose vaccine series and will be given at the same time as some other vaccines that are administered at age 6 weeks and 10 weeks.

“Preventing serious rotavirus disease by vaccination is the best way to protect children. It is safe and effective in preventing diarrheal disease caused by rotavirus”- Dr. Collins Tabu

Ahead of the introduction of the vaccine, the Ministry of Health has been  involved in the training health workers, procuring vaccines, increasing  the cold chain for vaccine storage, and advocacy with other stakeholders.

Rotavirus can spread easily. Good hygiene such as hand washing and general cleanliness are important but are not enough to control the spread of the disease. Rotavirus vaccines are very effective in preventing rotavirus gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) and the accompanying diarrhea and other symptoms. This simply means, save the July date and ensure that your child, your niece or nephew or even your friend’s or neighbour’s child get this important vaccine that will surely reduce the suffering and deaths of our children.

Kenya will be joining other countries that have introduced rotavirus vaccines. In USA for example, rotavirus vaccine was introduced for U.S infants in 2006 and since 2011, countries such as Sudan, Ghana, Rwanda, Yemen, Malawi, Armenia, Tanzania, Georgia, Haiti, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Zambia and Burundi have as well introduced rotavirus vaccines into their national immunization programmes.

A part from vaccine, other existing interventions that are necessary and effective in fighting diarrhea include: oral rehydration solutions, zinc supplements, clean water and sanitation and exclusive breastfeeding which is considered naturally sterile.

I clapped all the way home after the announcement for two reasons, first, majority of Kenyans are poor and though the vaccine is available it is not affordable for all since you should have at least 5k for your baby to get the 2 doses therefore this free vaccine means more poor babies will be protected. Secondly, the introduction of rotavirus vaccine can help our dear country Kenya to get closer to reaching MDG4 even though we are 7 months close to 2015, considering that Rotavirus is the leading cause of death due to diarrhea in children under five, taking the lives of more than 450,000 each year.

Vaccine is equal to life and with rotavirus vaccine; many children will be able to survive beyond 5 years to at least validate their already valid dreams.





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