[Ip-health] MSF: Research results show need to tailor vaccines to improve their impact

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Thu Nov 8 07:14:35 PST 2012

At the 7th African Rotavirus Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa, Médecins
Sans Frontières (MSF) research arm Epicentre publishes research that
concludes that the most common genotype of rotavirus found in children with
the disease is not included in the two existing vaccines designed to
protect against the disease. The two existing vaccines, developed for
genotypes found in wealthy countries, provide only a 50 - 60% efficacy rate
in Africa and Asia, against 90% in developed countries. This underlines the
need for vaccines to be developed that are actually adapted and tailored to
the genotypes and conditions found in developing countries.

Please find press release below:

*Research results show need to tailor vaccines to improve their impact *

*Cape Town/Geneva, 8 November 2012 *– Rotavirus is an important cause of
life-threatening diarrhoea in Africa but available vaccines may not be the
best adapted.  Research presented at the 7th African Rotavirus Symposium by
Epicentre, the epidemiological research arm of international medical
humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and other African
researchers contributes to this growing body of evidence.

“Vaccine developers have not taken into account the full rotavirus picture
in places that are hardest hit by diarrheal illness and deaths caused by
rotavirus,” said Dr Anne-Laure Page, an epidemiologist at Epicentre. “This
study adds to the growing body of research that underscores the need to
ensure that vaccines are developed that effectively address the needs of
developing countries.”

The research includes two years of surveillance data of over 10,000
children with severe diarrhoea in Niger. Stool samples were collected from
all children under five years having diarrhoea with moderate or severe
dehydration and tested for rotavirus using a rapid diagnostic test. The
data confirms that rotavirus is an important cause of severe diarrhoea in
Africa; 30.4% of the cases in the study were associated with rotavirus.
However, the most common rotavirus genotypes documented in the study are
not included in the two existing vaccines that aim to prevent the
disease (GSK’s
Rotarix and Merck’s RotaTeq).

The two available rotavirus vaccines were developed and tested in
industrialised countries, and have an efficacy rate of 90% against severe
diarrhoea in these countries, compared to an estimated 50-60% in countries
in Africa and Asia. The current vaccines are also bulky and have a limited
shelf life at room temperature, further making them unsuitable for
developing countries that lack adequate refrigeration capacity.

“Right now, vaccines are mainly developed for industrialised countries and
then used in Africa and Asia at a later stage, whether they’re adapted to
those contexts or not,” said Kate Elder, Vaccines Policy Advisor with MSF’s
Access Campaign. “We need to see a paradigm shift in vaccine development,
with the specific needs of developing countries incorporated into research
and development from the very start of the process.”

Epicentre’s* *research further builds the case that global immunisation
effort needs to prioritise better-adapted vaccines for developing countries
and settings where MSF operates.

A study in Uganda is looking to address the burden of pneumococcal disease
in vulnerable populations by delivering one dose of pneumococcal conjugate
vaccine (PCV) to a wide age range, instead of a three-dose schedule to
young children. There is presently no World Health Organization
recommendation or global policy on the use of PCV in crisis-affected
populations. The results of this research may have applications for routine
programmes, in addition to interventions in crises.

Another Epicentre study in Chad is looking at use of the tetanus toxoid
vaccine in a flexible cold chain, as keeping vaccines cold represents a
major logistical obstacle to vaccinating children in many remote and rural

“The fact that currently available vaccines are not easy to use in the
places that are hardest to reach contributes to the fact that 22 million
children born each year do not receive even the basic vaccination package,”
said Elder.

- ends -

*Joanna Keenan*
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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