Smart Move On Rotavirus Vaccination [editorial]

The government has set next year as the target for rolling out vaccination against the rotavirus, which causes acute diarrhoea.

As The Observer reported last week, the state minister for Health, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, recently decried the fact that thousands of Ugandan children still die of vaccine-preventable diseases such as diarrhoea.

Tumwesigye said that from next year, rotavirus vaccination would become routinely available at public health facilities – in much the same way as parents get their children immunised against diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus or tuberculosis.

This is welcome news and we hope the government that Dr Tumwesigye serves, and its partners, will ensure that next year actually comes next year.

In Uganda it is estimated that around 20,000 infants die of diarrhoea annually, while the global figure tops 500,000. One disconcerting, if unsurprising, fact is that 85 per cent of the global deaths figure are in poor countries such as Uganda.

And the present situation in Uganda suggests that that same dichotomy is reproduced here. For while we wait for rotavirus vaccination to come to public health facilities, the service is readily available in private hospitals for up to Shs 100,000.

Even if government units were to start by introducing this vaccination in their private wings, it could only cost a third of that figure – going by concessional prices declared by global pharmaceutical giants. This means that well-off parents can easily get their children vaccinated while the majority, many of whom live on the edge, wait for the government to deliver.

Yet, as Dr Tumwesigye shows, government officials are not ignorant of the health and related cost-benefits of mass rotavirus vaccination. The country would have healthier children, millions of hospital visits would be avoided, hundreds of billions of shillings would be saved in would-be treatment costs, and most critically, thousands of lives would be saved.

So, expediting the introduction of the vaccination in the public health system would not only be smart governance, it would be smart business by the government and its partners. And it would eliminate one more aspect of segregation, where the poor die because their government fails to accord them services easily available to richer people.

Source : The Observer

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