GSK’s oral vaccine

GLAXOSMITHKLINE’s (GSK) rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, has been chosen as the Department of Health’s (DH) for the first routine rotavirus vaccination programme in the UK.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in infants and children under five. Rotarix, an oral vaccine, will be added to the UK childhood immunisation schedule for three years from September next year to vaccinate all infants from the ages of six weeks to 24 weeks.

Erik van Snippenberg, general manager of GSK UK Pharma said: “This is great news for children and parents. Adding Rotarix to the UK vaccination schedule will help protect children in the UK from rotavirus and alleviate the unnecessary distress it can cause.

“The vaccination programme represents a significant opportunity to protect infants and to save vital NHS resources in the UK as gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus is currently a major cause of sickness, visits to the doctor and hospitalisation, in children under the age of five years.”

Rotavirus is a highly contagious and common virus that infects the stomach and bowel, causing rapid onset diarrhoea and vomiting. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in infants and young children in the UK and it is estimated that every child will have at least one rotavirus infection before the age of five.

The Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the UK’s vaccination advisers, had previously stated that rotavirus vaccination would reduce the incidence of gastroenteritis in the population and, following a tender process including the submission of clinical, health economic and technical information, GSK’s Rotarix was chosen for use in the childhood immunisation schedule.

Rotavirus vaccines are already recommended and used in the schedule in a number of developed countries including the USA, Australia, Austria and Belgium, where they have made a significant reduction in the burden of severe childhood diarrhoea.