Bangladesh: Officials, Experts Agree on Urgent Need for Rotavirus Prevention

Experts gather in Dhaka on January 5, 2015.

The world’s foremost experts on rotavirus recently gathered in Dhaka, Bangladesh to discuss the country’s substantial disease burden, the expense associated with treatment and how to best support the introduction of rotavirus vaccines into the country’s national immunization program. Among the January 5 meeting attendees were government officials, immunization program officers and scientific experts.*

The latest research on rotavirus in Bangladesh indicates:

Rotavirus is a major problem

  • 2.4 million cases each year
  • Responsible for nearly two-thirds of all diarrhea-related hospitalizations in children under age 5 in 2013
  • Half of all rotavirus hospitalizations were among infants age 6-11 months

Rotavirus is expensive

  • Treatment in a hospital can cost a family US$84 per episode, in terms of both direct and indirect costs
  • Direct costs, such as medicine and diagnostic tests, amount to almost 20% of average monthly household income
  • US$66.8 million is the estimated total, annual nationwide cost for rotavirus hospitalizations

Prevention is possible

  • Vaccination against rotavirus can reduce the risk of infection by nearly half during the first year of life, when the threat is greatest
  • Rotavirus vaccines could prevent an estimated 135,000 hospitalizations per year
  • Rotavirus vaccines are safe and cost-effective

While progress has been made in reducing diarrhea-related deaths among children, it is still one of the leading causes of illness among children under 5 in Bangladesh. Rotavirus is a significant cause of these illness and hospitalizations. Rotavirus vaccines could have a powerful public health impact if introduced into Bangladesh’s national immunization program.

The ROTA Council applauds the government of Bangladesh for prioritizing this issue, and encourages officials to take steps toward introducing rotavirus vaccines, such as improving cold chain capacity and applying to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for vaccine introduction support.

You can download a presentation delivered at this meeting by Dr. George Armah on Ghana as a case study here.

*The meeting was hosted by the Hospital Based Rotavirus and Intussusception Surveillance (HBRIS), Bangladesh and the ROTA Council. Attendees included representatives from:

  • Bangabandhu Memorial Hospital
  • Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University
  • BRAC
  • Dhaka Medical College
  • Dhaka Shishu Hospital
  • Directorate General of Health Services
  • EPI, Government of Bangladesh
  • Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research
  • International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
  • Jahurul Islam Medical College
  • Jalalabad Ragib-Rabeya Medical College
  • Jessore General Hospital
  • LAMB Hospital
  • Rajshahi Medical College Hospital
  • Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital
  • UNICEF
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • USAID
  • World Health Organization