ROTA Council convened a technical and advocacy symposium to protect children in Asia from rotavirus disease

Participants from 13 countries joined together at the regional advocacy workshop Evidence-based advocacy for rotavirus prevention in Asia, held 7 November, 2016 at the Pullman Grande Sukhumvit Hotel, in Bangkok, Thailand. Topics covered included rotavirus morbidity and mortality globally and in Asia, currently available interventions, cost effectiveness and economic impact, and barriers to introduction. Participants also worked with leading advocates in the region to develop skills such as delivering an effective elevator pitch and reaching influential audiences on social media.

Technical topics covered included:

  • Daniel Payne of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that diarrheal disease is the #2 most common cause of death around the world for children aged 1-59 months.
  • Mary Carol Jennings of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health International Vaccine Access Center moderated an enthusiastic discussion on barriers to introduction and uptake in Asia. Participants shared key obstacles for introduction including: cost of the vaccine, challenges for financing in the long-term, supply constraints, and competing priorities as well as obstacles for access to care: primary caregiver—male vs. female, distance from health care center.
  • Professor Lulu Bravo from the University of Philippines discussed the challenge of rotavirus vaccine rollout in the Philippines but was hopeful for national rollout in the near future.

Advocacy Presentations included:

  • Li Jin Chan shared information on her “YES to PnD Protection” campaign in Malaysia aimed at getting pneumococcal vaccine into the country’s national immunization program. Ms. Chan detailed how her efforts could be mirrored for rotavirus vaccine by leveraging parents as advocates, using nurses and doctors, and bringing these groups and their signatures to policy makers; she also suggested painting stools with the slogan Stop Sitting on It! with facts about vaccines.
  • Amandeep Singh from Global Health Strategies spoke about using social media for advocacy, referencing successful media engagement around rotavirus introduction in India. He suggested coming up with a quick line that causes shock and brews interest, such as, “By the time you get to the 10th floor using the elevator, one child will be hospitalized due to diarrhea.”

We hope that our participants will remain engaged as advocates for rotavirus vaccine introductions and increased access. As Dr. Bravo says, “Evidence is not enough, advocacy is needed.”

About the ROTA Council

The ROTA Council is coordinated by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health International Vaccine Access Center, with partners at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PATH, and Sabin Vaccine Institute, and support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and GSK. GSK’s support does not influence content, faculty, or attendees of this or other sessions hosted by ROTA Council.