Although vaccine safety remains debated in some circles, a new report highlights the value of vaccination, especially for rotavirus.
Following the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in 2006, the incidence of the disease – which causes serious and sometimes fatal gastroenteritis, especially in infants – has fallen, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"This study shows that the rotavirus vaccine has significantly reduced the severity and changed the seasonality of rotavirus disease in the United States," says lead author Ben Hallowell, PHD, MPH, an officer of the Office for Epidemiological Intelligence at the National Center for Immunization of the CDC and Respiratory diseases, a division of viral diseases.
Currently, two rotavirus vaccines are recommended by the CDC and both are administered orally during the first few months of life, with the series being completed at the age of 8 years.
Rotavirus is the main cause of severe gastroenteritis in children prior to the introduction of the vaccine in 2006, and the new report analyzes the prevalence of the disease after the introduction of the vaccine. The CDC collected data on pre-vaccines from 2000 to 2006 and post-data from 2007 to 2018 and found that the annual percentage rate of rotavirus-positive tests decreased from 25.6% during the pre-vaccination period to 6, 1% in the post-treatment period,1 according to the survey.
Additionally, annual peak positivity decreased from 43.1% in the pre-vaccination period to 14% during the post-treatment period, and the duration of the season decreased from 26 weeks in the pre-vaccination period to 9 weeks in the post-treatment period.
The study concluded that the vaccine significantly reduced the burden of rotavirus disease, even with a plateau coverage of about 70% across the country.
Even with the success of the vaccine, however, the study revealed a two-year pattern of disease with alternating years of high and low virus activity, says Hallowell.
"Although we do not know the exact cause of this two-year model, we know that this model is not seen in other countries with higher vaccination rates," he says. "If we improve vaccine coverage and timely vaccination, we will prevent further cases of rotavirus and we may be able to eliminate this seasonal two-year model."
The CDC notes that teamwork is required from all providers and non-clinical staff to improve the vaccination rate and support parents in making vaccine decisions. Hallowell says he hopes the study will help doctors continue to improve the vaccination rate and further reduce the severity of this disease, which each year takes over 200,000 lives worldwide.
"This work demonstrates that rotavirus vaccination has drastically reduced the burden of disease in the United States and has changed seasonal patterns," says Hallowell. "Hopefully, this evidence will further encourage healthcare providers to continue to improve coverage and timely vaccination against rotavirus."