Rotavirus vaccine reduces gastroenteritis hospitalizations among children

July 1, 2011

Vaccination against rotavirus, a major cause of severe acute gastroenteritis in children, dramatically decreased hospitalization rates for the infection among infants in 3 US counties, according to a new study.

Vaccination against rotavirus, a major cause of severe acute gastroenteritis in children, dramatically decreased hospitalization rates for the infection among infants in 3 US counties, according to a new study.

Routine rotavirus vaccination began in 2006, and US children between 6 months and 24 months old are eligible for the vaccine. During the pre-rotavirus vaccine era, rotavirus infected nearly every US child by age 5, and gastroenteritis was responsible for 4% to 5% of all US pediatric hospitalizations and accounted for about 50% of acute gastroenteritis hospitalizations during the winter months.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the effect of the rotavirus vaccine introduction on hospitalization for diarrhea and/or vomiting in the Cincinnati, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee; and Rochester, New York, areas. A total of 837 children younger than 3 years who were hospitalized with acute gastroenteritis during rotavirus seasons from 2006 to 2009 were enrolled at the 3 surveillance sites.

Reductions in the hospitalization rate occurred even among children who were too old to have been immunized with rotavirus vaccine. The hospitalization rate decreased 92% among these older, unvaccinated children and is believed to have been because of the indirect protective benefits conferred by reduced rotavirus transmission from younger, vaccinated children in the household and community. The indirect protective benefits observed in older, unvaccinated children were not observed in 2009, when rotavirus rates increased disproportionately among older children, suggesting that indirect protective benefits may have provided unvaccinated, older children a single-year deferral of exposure and subsequent infection.

Payne DC, Staat MA, Edwards KM, et al; New Vaccine Surveillance Network (NVSN). Direct and indirect effects of rotavirus vaccination upon childhood hospitalizations in 3 US counties, 2006-2009. Clin Infect Dis. 2011. Epub ahead of print.