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Zimbabwe Launches New Vaccine to Save Children's Lives

A nurse prepares a H1N1 influenza vaccine during the start of a campaign against the influenza at a hospital in Tegucigalpa March 23, 2010. There have been 18 deaths since the arrival of the virus in the country, according to Honduras Ministry of Health.

Zimbabwe today launched the use of a new vaccine to treat rotavirus diarrhea in children aged one and below.

The vaccine is meant to reduce the number of childhood deaths caused by severe diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a leading killer of children across Africa, causing approximately 9 per cent of deaths in children under five years of age in Zimbabwe.

The high burden of rotavirus disease in African children, coupled with the power of rotavirus vaccines to prevent childhood deaths and hospitalizations, underscores the incredible potential for the introduction of rotavirus vaccines in the country to save children’s lives.

Officiating at the launch of the vaccine in Harare Wednesday, a representative of health minister David Parirenyatwa, Christopher Tapfumanei, said the use of the vaccine will reduce child mortality and morbidity in Zimbabwe.

Tapfumanei, a principal director in the health ministry, said the vaccine was introduced in some of the country health institutions in May this year.

World Health Organization representative, David Okello, said several children worldwide lost their lives to rotavirus diarrhea before the rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 1999.

Some health sector sources told VOA Studio 7 that although the drug started to be distributed in hospitals and clinics May this year, the vaccine is not found in most parts of the country resulting in the drug being sold for as much as US$40 on the parallel market.

However, Tapfumanei tells Studio 7 that authorities are working flat out to ensure that the drug is readily available and for free in all health institutions.

Meanwhile, country director of the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, Professor Rose Kambarami, said children’s lives could be saved if they access treatment timeously.

The rotavirus vaccine is given twice to children under the age of one. Health experts say children should be six weeks old to get the first immunization while the second would be given at 10 weeks.

The use of the rotavirus vaccine in Zimbabwe was made possible through financing from the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund or Unicef and more than a million children in the country are expected to be immunized.