Rotavirus is the number one culprit among the common causes for diarrhea. Nearly every child will suffer through the disease at least once before the age of five, and while mortalities from the infection are rare in the developed world, in developing countries hundreds of thousands of children die because of rotavirus every year.
This graph above comes from the 2011 publication Childhoof Diarrhea Deaths after Rotavirus Vaccination in Mexico in the New England Journal of Medicine, where they look at the results of rotavirus vaccine introduction in 2007. The vaccine was found to have reduced deaths from rotavirus by more than half. They report:
The sustained reduction in the rate of death from diarrhea for three seasons after the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, with reductions progressively extending to other age groups as they become age-eligible for vaccination, provides evidence that some mortality reduction is likely attributable to vaccination. The cumulative reduction of some 2640 childhood deaths since the vaccination program was initiated in Mexico highlights the lifesaving promise of rotavirus vaccines and supports the WHO recommendation for immunization of all children worldwide against rotavirus.
Similarily, a 2015 study reports on the findings in Brazil: The effectiveness of a rotavirus vaccine in preventing hospitalizations and deaths presumably due to acute infectious diarrhea in Brazilian children: a quasi-experimental study. They analysed three different populations of children (all aged 0-4), and found that the mortality due to diarrhea per 100,000 children in the groups fell from 2 to 1.3, from 5.5 to 2.5, and from 15 to 8, after the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in 2006. They conclude:
A monovalent rotavirus vaccine was demonstrated to be effective in preventing the hospitalizations and deaths of children that were presumably due to acute infectious diarrhea, without increasing the risk of intestinal intussusception.
The graph of the mortality rates in Mexico is also part of the excellent data presentation over at Our World in Data, where you can also data on many other vaccine preventable diseases. On rotavirus they write:
The rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea and causes 527,000 childhood deaths annually (2011). Many more become sick and are hospitalized.1 Mexico introduced the rotavirus vaccination between 2006 and 2007, and the following graph shows how successful the countrywide vaccination was. According to the study, diarrhea mortality for children under the age of 5 fell by 56% over three years! The graph shows the seasonal pattern of the disease and how the lifesaving effect of the vaccine affected different age groups.
This infographic by Dawn at Dawn’s Brain does a great job at presenting the key facts on rotavirus. For many more great infographics like this on preventable diseases, make sure to check out her blog.
For equally compelling graphical representations of other vaccine preventable disease notifications before and after vaccine introductions, see Visual Vaccines. If you are interested in reading more vaccine topics, make sure to also check out my other infographics and articles on Vaccines and health.
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