Honoring progress and superheroes at Twelfth International Rotavirus Symposium

Two major meetings recently brought together scientists, advocates, and other global health stakeholders to review new research and strategize about public health agendas related to the prevention of rotavirus diarrhea.

2016 International Rotavirus Symposium celebrates progress, looks to the future of rotavirus vaccines

From September 7 to 9, 2016, more than 350 people from over 57 countries gathered in Melbourne, Australia for the Twelfth International Rotavirus Symposium. Delegates included health dignitaries from several Asian and Western Pacific countries, as well as scientists, clinicians, advocates, global health stakeholders, vaccine industry representatives, and members of the donor community from across the globe. The Symposium featured a special session honoring Australian researcher Ruth Bishop, who discovered rotavirus in 1973 and whose legacy has inspired other scientists to continue advancing rotavirus research to save children’s lives. Speakers shared updates on rotavirus science and research, reviewed global epidemiological trends of rotavirus disease, presented data on the impact of existing rotavirus vaccines and clinical trials of new vaccines in development, and provided perspectives from country governments and regulatory agencies on the introduction of rotavirus vaccines.

Of note was a memorable opening message from a young girl named Pippa, who was one of the first children in Australia to receive rotavirus vaccine in 2006. Acknowledging Ruth Bishop’s role in accelerating access to the vaccine, she noted, “We are so lucky to live in Australia because we all get this vaccine when we are babies. Thank you Ruth!”

The Symposium also included a panel and accompanying reception honoring women “superheroes” in rotavirus, which was hosted by PATH’s DefeatDD team. The honorees came from six continents and represented work across the rotavirus vaccine spectrum, from development to delivery.

Convened by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute of the University of Melbourne, PATH, and the ROTA Council, the Symposium was both a celebration of a decade of progress in rotavirus vaccines as well as an inspiration for scientists, advocates, and implementers looking to the future of rotavirus immunization.

PATH staff and collaborators present new data at Symposium

PATH’s work across the rotavirus vaccine spectrum was represented in several ways on the Symposium agenda with oral and poster presentations from PATH staff and collaborators. Contributions included a presentation from PATH health economist Clint Pecenka on the cost-effectiveness of rotavirus vaccines in Bangladesh, and partner presentations on a PATH-supported Phase 3 trial of a bovine-human reassortant rotavirus vaccine candidate and the results of a PATH-supported Phase 1/2 trial of a non-replicating rotavirus vaccine candidate. PATH also contributed to a study presented at the Symposium on the household and health system costs of diarrheal illness in Malawi. Additionally, the Devices and Tools team at PATH shared posters about their work in rotavirus vaccine formulations and presentations.

African countries urged to prioritize rotavirus vaccines at African Rotavirus Symposium

Earlier this year, the Center for Vaccine Development-Mali hosted the Tenth African Rotavirus Symposium in Bamako, Mali from June 1 to 2. More than 150 people from 33 countries, 29 in Africa, gathered for the first Symposium held in francophone Africa to address the theme, “Reaching Every Child in Africa With Rotavirus Vaccines.” Scientists, clinicians, public health officials, policymakers, vaccine manufacturers, and international rotavirus experts discussed diarrheal disease burden, rotavirus vaccine effectiveness and safety, advances in rotavirus science, and sustainability of vaccine programs and diarrhea control efforts in African countries. Symposium organizers concluded the meeting by issuing a call for: introduction in the 22 African countries that have yet to introduce rotavirus vaccines; expanded access in the countries that have already introduced; continued surveillance and post-impact evaluations; new research; and prioritization of financial planning.

These articles were first published in the RotaFlash Rotavirus Vaccine Update e-Newsletter on 20 September 2016. View it online here.

For information on rotavirus disease and vaccines and to access the RotaFlash archives, please visit our Rotavirus Vaccine Access and Delivery website. For information on diarrheal disease, please visit our DefeatDD website. For information on support for rotavirus vaccine introduction, please visit Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s website.

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