Rotavirus vaccine for babies

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 12:15 17/12/2013

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Taranaki's medical officer of health is welcoming free vaccinations for babies to protect them from vomiting and diarrhoea.

The Government announced today a vaccine for the potentially-deadly rotavirus will be added to the National Immunisation Schedule.

"Rotavirus is a gastric infection which mainly affects children. It causes illness and diarrhoea that can lead to hospital admission. In severe cases, the infection can be fatal," Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew says.

"It is estimated that by funding this vaccine up to 1200 hospital admissions could be avoided each year."

The decision by Pharmac to add this vaccine to the schedule comes with the support of paediatricians," says Mrs Goodhew.

In praising the move, the Taranaki DHB's medical officer of health Jonathan Jarman says studies have shown that rotavirus vaccination campaigns can significantly reduce the number of children needing to be admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis.

Rotovirus is not a notifiable disease so there was no accurate information on the number of cases in Taranaki, he says.

''However we know of two rotavirus outbreaks in childcare centres in Taranaki since the start of the year.''

The age group most affected are young children.

It can cause a nasty dehydrating gastroenteritis particularly in children aged between 4 months and 23 months, Dr Jarman says.

Ms Goodhew says the rotavirus vaccine is given while babies are very young - within the first eight months - and is a liquid oral vaccine that is easy to administer to infants.

"Pharmac has today also confirmed that the chickenpox vaccine, varicella, will be funded to protect the most at-risk patients. This includes children with reduced immune systems," says Mrs Goodhew."These are all positive improvements to the National Immunisation Schedule, and I hope they will ultimately lead to higher rates of immunisation, one of the Government's key health goals," says Mrs Goodhew. The changes to the National Immunisation Schedule will come into place from 1 July 2014.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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