LAHORE - Punjab will plead its case for introduction of rotavirus vaccine in routine immunization with Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI) mission at a meeting scheduled on Monday.

Besides various issues, introduction of rotavirus vaccine in Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) and upgrade of existing cold chain is on agenda of the meeting with GAVI mission.

The government is seeking introduction of rotavirus vaccine through GAVI funding and is ready to bear the provincial share of co-financing for the same. As GAVI deals with states only, federal EPI officials will also attend the meeting to support the agenda of EPI Punjab.

“Hopefully Punjab will be the first province to introduce rotavirus vaccine in routine immunization. The target of getting set level of cold chain will be achieved this year that will pave ways for inclusion of rotavirus vaccine in EPI,” EPI Punjab Director Dr Bashir Siddiqui told The Nation yesterday.

The vaccine is a very effective option in terms of efficacy, safety and cost against diarrhea caused by rotavirus across the globe. The vaccination will help decreasing morbidity, reduce the number of hospitalizations and have a positive economic impact on healthcare.

Some officials at Directorate General Health Services are hopeful that the rotavirus vaccine will become part of EPI this year in accordance with the four year PC-1, 2016-2020. The EPI director, however, is of the view that rotavirus will be part of routine immunization latest by the beginning of 2017.

More than 4500 children below five years age died of diarrhoea in Punjab every year. About 40-45 per cent of the diarrhoea related deaths are caused by Rotavirus.

The vaccine is effective in preventing rotavirus gastroenteritis and the accompanying diarrhoea and other complications.

Inclusion of rotavirus vaccine in routine immunization will help decreasing diarrhoea related deaths by 40-45 per cent, said leading family physician Dr Abdul Rauf.

Rotavirus disease is common in infants and young children. Symptoms are severe watery diarrhoea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Vomiting and watery diarrhoea can last from 3 to 8 days. Additional symptoms include loss of appetite and dehydration (loss of body fluids). Infected children shed rotavirus in their faeces.

Rotavirus can spread by contaminated hands, objects like toys, surfaces, food and water mostly in the winter and spring.

Good hygiene (hand washing) and cleanliness are important but are not enough to control the spread of the disease.