The methods to deliver vaccines have undergone dramatic changes since the days of the polio vaccine in 1953 when the liquid was dropped onto a sugar cube for dosing. Now vaccines come in a variety of innovative dosing methods other than shots. Skin patches and inhalants are becoming increasingly popular.
One of the more recent medical advances is a dosing method for the rotavirus vaccine, a disease common to developing countries that kills over 200,000 children per year.
While the rotavirus vaccine has been available for some time, a new dosing method for the oral vaccine has become a game-changer—especially in areas of the world that are most affected by this disease.
One of the basic issues to availability of vaccines in developing countries is that the vaccines do not perform well (potency is reduced or negated) when stored at normal environmental temperatures, and many are inactivated when stored in either too cold (frozen) or too warm (desert temperatures).
Scientists have now developed the rotavirus vaccine into a freeze-dried powder that not only has greatly increased stability during storage but makes it easy to transport. The process was developed in India and it involves dipping the vaccine into liquid nitrogen and removing the water with a vacuum. The remaining dry powder becomes a most convenient, easily portable vaccine that is simple to administer.
Freeze-dried rotavirus vaccines now can be safely transported hundreds of kilometers from village to village in rural areas, such as in sub-Saharan Africa. No longer is there a need to consider how this vaccine will be handled and stored in places that lack electricity or traditional health clinics.
The rotavirus disease induces severe gastritis that includes diarrhea, which leads to extreme dehydration and eventually to death. Dehydration is the second leading cause of death in children under five years of age, killing over 760,000 children each year. Stopping rotavirus in its tracks with this more convenient and stable vaccine will greatly and positively impact these staggering statistics.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented that since the freeze-dried rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2014, severe cases of rotavirus have been reduced by over sixty percent—a monumental victory over this deadly disease and a medical breakthrough over traditional health barriers worldwide.
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