By Victoria Saffa
UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and WHO, on Friday March 28 launched the Rotavirus vaccine for all children in Sierra Leone below 11 months old. The national launch took place in Kambia town, northern Sierra Leone, with many lactating mothers together with their babies, health workers, volunteers and other stakeholders, in attendance.
The Rotavirus vaccine is administered to children who fall under the above age category to prevent diarrhoea that is caused by the rotavirus, which is non-bloody and watery. A person who is infected with the rotavirus suffers from severe diarrhoea and vomiting particularly among under-five children. If left untreated, this can lead to severe dehydration and death.
Though it is not the only cause of diarrhoea, the rotavirus is the leading cause of severe and fatal diarrhoea among under-five children worldwide.
Rotavirus diarrhoea is mainly spread through faeces and by shaking the contaminated hands of an infected person. That is, a person who does not wash his/her hands with soap after using the toilet.
“The introduction of this vaccine is a significant development in the fight against child mortality in Sierra Leone,” said Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “It is always important, and we must not relent, to persistently reinforce messages of good hygiene behaviour among mothers, children and other vulnerable groups of people.”
Health workers and volunteers are moving from house to house in every corner of the country vaccinating children. Community social mobilizers complement these efforts with sensitization campaigns in various communities.
The rotavirus vaccine is being introduced in Sierra Leone for the first time and the campaign is expected to be organized every year.