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New Vaccine Could Prevent Virus From Killing Children

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A new vaccine that could possibly prevent a deadly diarrheal disease that causes high mortality among children has proven to be safe and effective, a new trial conducted in Africa states.

The disease, called rotavirus, has killed hundreds of children. It is responsible for over a third of deaths due to diarrhea among kids younger than five years old, adding up to around 450,000 children annually, CBS News reports.

This new vaccine is heat stable and was found to be 66.7% effective at preventing severe gastroenteritis – a symptom of the virus. Known as BRV-PV, the vaccine is cheaper than existing ones, does not need to be stored in a refrigerator, and specifically targets the rotavirus strains found in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the region most affected by the virus.

The trial was conducted by Doctors without Borders in Niger, in partnership with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Epicentre in Paris.

Dr. Micaela Serafini, Doctors Without Borders’ medical director, said,

This is a game-changer. We believe that the new vaccine can bring protection against rotavirus to the children who need it most.

Unlike other causes of diarrhea, rotavirus cannot be prevented through things like sanitation, hygiene and improvements in water conditions, making vaccines an invaluable tool in preventing the disease from killing children.

The two existing rotavirus vaccines are expensive to manufacture and need to be refrigerated, making them difficult to bring to countries with little resources where electricity is inaccessible.

BRV-PV is licensed in India, but will need approval by the World Health Organization before the United Nations and other government agencies can start buying it to distribute.

Sheila Isanaka, assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and study author, said, “After the successful clinical trial of this new vaccine, we hope that it can be made available as soon as possible to children in Niger and across Africa.”

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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