Rotavirus is the single most important cause of severe diarrhoea in infants and young children. This review provides updated information concerning three rotavirus vaccines that are being evaluated and introduced globally.
Two large, phase III clinical trials, each involving more than 60,000 infants in both developing and developed countries, demonstrated that both RotaTeq (Merck & Co., Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, USA), the pentavalent human-bovine reassortant vaccine, and Rotarix (GlaxoSmithKine Biologicals, Rixensart, Belgium), the monovalent live-attenuated human rotavirus vaccine, are safe with respect to intussusception when the first dose is administered between 6 and 12 weeks of age, and that both vaccines are 90-95% efficacious in preventing severe rotavirus gastroenteritis including hospitalization. The bovine (UK)-human rotavirus reassortant tetravalent (BRV-TV) vaccine, developed at the National Institutes of Health (USA), was licensed for local production in several developing countries.
Rotavirus vaccines are entering a new stage of deployment toward the goal of reducing morbidity and mortality attributed to rotavirus infection in developing countries, and hospitalizations and emergency visits caused by rotavirus in developed countries. High vaccine prices appear to offset cost savings, and may make policymakers even in wealthy countries hesitate to introduce a rotavirus vaccine into their childhood immunization programmes.