Rotavirus vaccine efficacy is lower in low-income countries than in high-income countries. Rwanda was one of the first low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce rotavirus vaccine into its national immunization program. We sought to evaluate rotavirus vaccine effectiveness (VE) in this setting.
VE was assessed using a case-control design. Cases and test-negative controls were children who presented with a diarrheal illness to 1 of 8 sentinel district hospitals and 10 associated health centers and had a stool specimen that tested positive (cases) or negative (controls) for rotavirus by enzyme immunoassay. Due to high vaccine coverage almost immediately after vaccine introduction, the analysis was restricted to children 7-18 weeks of age at time of rotavirus vaccine introduction. VE was calculated as (1 - odds ratio) × 100, where the odds ratio was the adjusted odds ratio for the rotavirus vaccination rate among case-patients compared with controls.
Forty-eight rotavirus-positive and 152 rotavirus-negative children were enrolled. Rotavirus-positive children were significantly less likely to have received rotavirus vaccine (33/44 [73%] unvaccinated) compared with rotavirus-negative children (81/136 [59%] unvaccinated) (P= .002). A full 3-dose series was 75% (95% confidence interval [CI], 31%-91%) effective against rotavirus gastroenteritis requiring hospitalization or a health center visit and was 65% (95% CI, -80% to 93%) in children 6-11 months of age and 81% (95% CI, 25%-95%) in children ≥12 months of age.
Rotavirus vaccine is effective in preventing rotavirus disease in Rwandan children who began their rotavirus vaccine series from 7 to 18 weeks of age. Protection from vaccination was sustained after the first year of life.