Rotavirus vaccine effects short-lived: Study

The rotavirus vaccine may not provide full protection to children with stunting as its effect could be short-lived among such subjects, researchers have found.

Christian Medical College, Vellore, and Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute under the Department of Biotechnology, have studied children across the country and found a co-relation between rotavirus vaccines manufactured in the country and stunting.

Prof Gagandeep Kang, Executive director, THSTI, said that the study involved 25,000 children across the country.

"Our findings indicate that children with stunting who have been vaccinated by the Indian-made rotavirus vaccine are not protected against rotavirus in the second year of life, while children who are normally nourished are protected.

"This is similar to published findings from another rotavirus vaccine in Africa. To me, the big question is - were these children stunted at the time of vaccination and is that why the vaccine did not work? Or is it that the vaccine did not work at all, the children were repeatedly infected with gut pathogens and became stunted," said Kang.

She explained that although the vaccines work well in the first year, there is little protection for the second year. "Repeated damage to the guts in young children leads to a decrease in multiple functions. One of them is also an immune response. The other is the absorption of nutrients," she said.

Karnataka has introduced the rotavirus vaccine in its immunisation schedule, this year. Kang said that researchers are planning to have four sites to conduct a study even on children in Karnataka who will be given another kind of the vaccine. "We do not expect the results to be any different from the other vaccine," she added.

Rotavirus is highly contagious virus and is the most common organism that causes diarrhoea among children which may lead to hospitalisation and even death, according to the Department of Health and Family Welfare.

It is estimated that rotavirus accounts for 40% of hospitalisations due to diarrhoea among children in India. Nearly 32.7 lakh children visit hospitals for treatment on OPD basis and close to 78,000 deaths are recorded annually in India as per official figures. It is given to children for up to two years and is known to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea.

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