Baby bug vaccine added to freebies

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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Free vaccinations for babies to protect them from vomiting and diarrhoea have been welcomed by Taranaki's medical officer of health.

The Government announced yesterday a vaccine for the potentially deadly rotavirus will be added to the national immunisation schedule from next July.

"Rotavirus is a gastric infection which mainly affects children," Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said.

"It causes illness and diarrhoea that can lead to hospital admission. In severe cases, the infection can be fatal."

Adding rotavirus to the immunisation schedule is estimated to cost $6.3 million per year, but could prevent up to 1200 hospital admissions annually.

The addition of a rotavirus vaccine to the list of Pharmac-funded vaccines would have a long-lasting positive effect on children's health, Pharmac's medical director Dr John Wyeth said.

Adding his praise to the move, Taranaki District Health Board medical officer of health Jonathan Jarman said studies have shown that rotavirus vaccination campaigns can significantly reduce the number of children needing to be admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis.

As rotavirus was not a notifiable disease there was no accurate information on the number of cases in Taranaki, he said.

"However we know of two outbreaks in childcare centres in Taranaki since the start of the year," he said.

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

Mrs Goodhew says the rotavirus vaccine is given while babies are very young - within the first eight months - and is an easily administered liquid oral vaccine.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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