Childhood vaccination against rotavirus using the vaccine Rotarix has the greatest benefit in the most deprived communities in UK and could help reduce health inequalities across the country, recent research at the University of Liverpool claims.
The infectious stomach bug, which can lead to severe diarrhea, vomiting and fever, is most common in the under-fives. An oral rotavirus vaccine was introduced in the UK in 2013 and is given as two doses for babies aged 8 and 12 weeks.
Using routine health data collected by GPs, walk-in centers and hospitals, the research team found that the incidence of gastrointestinal disease has decreased across all levels of the health-care system in children aged 5 and under since the vaccine's introduction. For example, rotavirus hospitalizations reduced by 80 percent, and walk-in center and GP attendances for infectious gastroenteritis reduced by 32 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Lead author Dan Hungerford, said: "Rotavirus vaccine is proving to be highly effective at preventing severe childhood gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus in the UK. "We found that like for other childhood vaccinations, rotavirus vaccine uptake is lowest in the most deprived communities. But, crucially, in spite of this finding and because of the higher baseline disease burden, the rotavirus vaccine is having the biggest impact in these communities.
"In England, a disproportionately high number of young children live in the most deprived communities. Therefore, if we prioritize vaccination in the most deprived populations the rotavirus vaccine is likely to give the greatest health benefit and can contribute to reducing health inequalities."
The research also suggests that rotavirus vaccination is helping to reduce the burden on the healthcare system for gastrointestinal disease in un-vaccinated adults.
The research team is continuing to investigate the longer-term impact of rotavirus vaccination on a range of disease outcomes both regionally and globally. In Liverpool, they are currently running public engagement activities and conducting community-based research to better understand the barriers and enablers to childhood vaccinations.