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Government Announce First UK Routine Rotavirus Vaccination Programme

London Saturday 10th November – GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix®, was today confirmed as the Department of Health’s (DH) choice for the first routine rotavirus vaccination programme in the UK.  Rotavirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in infants and children under 51.

Rotarix®, an oral vaccine, will be added to the UK childhood immunisation schedule for three years from September 2013 to vaccinate all infants from the ages of 6 to 24 weeks old against rotavirus disease.

Erik van Snippenberg, General Manager of GSK UK Pharma commented, “This is great news for children and parents.  Adding Rotarix® to the UK vaccination schedule will help protect children in the UK from rotavirus and alleviate the unnecessary distress it can cause.

“The vaccination programme represents a significant opportunity to protect infants and to save vital NHS resources in the UK as gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus is currently a major cause of sickness, visits to the doctor and hospitalisation, in children under the age of 5 years.”1,2

Rotavirus is a highly contagious and common virus that infects the stomach and bowel, causing rapid onset diarrhoea and vomiting (gastroenteritis)3. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in infants and young children in the UK, and it is estimated that every child will have at least one rotavirus infection before the age of five.1,2  Rotavirus imposes a considerable burden on children, their parents, the NHS and society – it is estimated that 14,000 to 18,000 children under 5 years of age are hospitalised annually in England and Wales due to rotavirus-related disease, with an estimated total annual cost to the NHS of at least £14.2 million.4,5

The Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the UK’s vaccination advisors, had previously stated that rotavirus vaccination would reduce the incidence of gastroenteritis in the population, and the DH subsequently released a tender to determine if a vaccine could be secured at a cost-effective price. Following a robust tender process including the submission of clinical, health economic and technical information, GSK’s Rotarix® (a live attenuated rotavirus vaccine) has been chosen for use in the childhood immunisation schedule.

Rotavirus vaccines are already recommended and used in the schedule in a number of developed countries including the USA, Australia, Austria and Belgium, where they have made a significant reduction in the burden of severe childhood diarrhoea6.

GSK is committed to supporting the DH with the implementation of a successful vaccination programme in order to reduce the burden of rotavirus-related disease in the UK.

Rotarix ® is an oral vaccine that is squirted into the baby’s mouth.  It is given in 2 doses approximately four weeks apart.

Rotarix ® is now included in routine childhood immunisation programmes across the world including USA, Australia, Austria, Belgium.

To date, GSK has distributed over 130 million doses of Rotarix ® since its launch in 2004, which would be sufficient to protect 65 million babies.

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