Vaccines to curb infant mortality

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

Two new childhood vaccines aimed at reducing child deaths in South Africa were launched in Johannesburg on Friday.

The vaccines, Rotarix and Pneumococcal, will help fight against diarrhoeal conditions and pneumonia.

The launch took place at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital as part of the Gauteng health department's immunisation programme.

Speaking at the event, MEC for health Brian Hlongwa said: "The vaccines provide an opportunity to reduce the high burden of infant mortality.

"They will also drastically reduce HIV-related deaths among infants.

"Diseases caused by streptococcus pneumonia are a major public health problem in the world since they cause about two million deaths each year. Most of these deaths are in poor countries.

Incidence rates in Africa ranged from 300 to 779 for every 100 000 children under five. In SA, studies in Soweto reflect an incidence rate of 349 for every 100 000 children below the age of one. The incidence is much higher in HIV-infected children.

"Studies have proven that vaccine use has led to a sharp reduction of invasive pneumo disease-resistant strains."

The MEC also ex-plained the importance of vaccination against diarrhoeal conditions.

"Diarrhoea causes 10 786 deaths a year in SA. A third to half of these (3 600 to 5 383) are due to Rotavirus. Ro-tarix will reduce that number drastically."