Seychelles readies to expand immunization programme: charity and telecom organisations join the health ministry to introduce Rotavirus vaccines in 2016
File Photo: A baby in Seychelles is administered with an oral dose of the polio vaccine. A new vaccine against the Rotavirus which will also be administered orally will be introduced in the island nation mid-2016 (Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles is taking steps to eventually reduce the number of Rotavirus infections in young children in the Indian Ocean island nation, with the imminent introduction of a five-year vaccination programme.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, the Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhea accounting for 40 percent of all diarrheal diseases worldwide, mostly in young children aged less than 5 years, a figure which the Seychelles ministry of health says is about the same in the island nation
Rotaviruses which spread rapidly, either through person-to-person contact, airborne droplets, or possibly contact with contaminated toys causes an infected person to present symptoms including watery or loose stool, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramps and fever and in the late stages, a bit of blood in the stools.
The symptoms usually appear two or three days after infection and if not treated on time, Rotavirus infections can lead to death.
In Seychelles, 2014 saw 6,446 children report to the hospital due to diarrheal diseases, out of which 371 were admitted, with one third of them testing positive for Rotavirus.
According to the ministry of health’s figures, January to August this year, has seen 367 children hospitalized to be treated for severe diarrhea, of which 31 percent were suffering from the Rotavirus.
According to Doctor Sanjeev Kumar Pugazhendhi, a medical doctor working at the Seychelles Hospital, the main treatment available locally so far is the Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS).
“These only help in milder cases where there is no vomiting, especially in babies and young children. Often they are very dehydrated and need to be (hospitalized) for drips for often many days,” said Kumar during a presentation last week which saw the launching of the five-year Rotavirus vaccination programme.
There are two oral vaccines available in 2 or 3 doses, the Rotarix and RotaTeq, which the WHO has recommended to be included in the national immunization programmes of all countries with a particular focus on South and Southeast Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries.
Seychelles is getting the help of the Lions Club of Seychelles, which is part of an international charity network - Lions Clubs International to implement the latest vaccination programme.
It was actually during the visit of the Lions Club International’s second vice-president Dr Naresh Aggarwal to the Indian Ocean archipelago last week, that the time-table which will lead to the first Rotavirus vaccine being administered in May 2016 leading to a nation-wide vaccination campaign was officially launched.
|A sum of around $70,000 or 902 thousand Seychelles rupees have been contributed by Local telecom provider Cable and Wireless Seychelles, to implement the five-year Rotavirus vaccination programme. (Joena Bonnelame, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The Rotavirus vaccine will add to the Seychelles immunization programme which is already providing for the protection of children against a wide range of diseases from yellow fever, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, measles, and tetanus among others.
One of Seychelles telecom providers, Cable and Wireless Seychelles, is providing the main funding of almost $70, 000 for the introductory five years of the project.
“The benefits are huge. Most of the serious diarrheal diseases will be prevented and the total diarrheal diseases will be reduced by one third. The part that is due to the rotavirus will be almost completely eliminated. Even unvaccinated children are partially protected because the vaccinated children indirectly protect the unvaccinated children by preventing the spread of viruses through them and the effect will be seen within six months,” said Dr Kumar.
WHO recommends that the Ministry of Health monitors diarrheal disease for two years after the introduction of the vaccine in the country to determine the impact.
“When it comes to side effects sometimes the children that are vaccinated may get a mild form of diarrhea. The other very rare possible side effect is that they can have a type of bowel problem, but the risk is less than 1 in 100 thousand children vaccinated.”
The Rotavirus vaccination programme is only one of several health related programmes which the Lion’s Club of Seychelles is helping the health ministry to implement.