Making Vaccines More Accessible: Reflections from the 14th International Rotavirus Symposium

April 27th, 2023 | Viewpoint


In March, we joined over 300 participants from 35 countries at the 14th International Rotavirus Symposium in Bali, Indonesia. The conference focused on the latest in vaccine manufacturing and results from new rotavirus vaccine trials, studies, and public health surveillance across the globe; enablers and barriers to vaccine introduction; vaccine policy and implementation; advances in immunology and virology; and vaccine efficacy and safety. Staff from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India and JSI Private Limited (JSIPL) participated as follows:

  • “Post-Introduction Evaluation of Rotavirus Vaccine Roll-out in India” panel to discuss “Insights on Rotavirus disease burden and Rotavirus vaccine introduction in the region’” by Dr. Veena Dhawan, MoHFW.
  • “Introduction of rotavirus vaccine in India” presentation and panel discussion on “Rotavirus Vaccine Product Switch: Experience from the Universal Immunization Programme in India” by Ms. Seema Singh Koshal, JSIPL.
  • “Telephonic Assessment of Knowledge of District and Block Health Staff following Training on Rotavirus Vaccine Introduction in 12 states of India,” and “Digitizing Tools for Post-Introduction Evaluation of Rotavirus Vaccine Introduction in India” poster presentations by Drs. Syed F. Quadri and Amanjot Kaur, JSIPL, respectively.

Throughout these and the other presentations, two main takeaways/components that came though.

Since the last symposium in 2018, there has been growth in vaccine manufacturing in India and production and distribution of new ‘made in India’ rotavirus vaccine products. These are now globally available in different formulations and presentations, and WHO has updated its position paper to include them. Many countries presented studies on their efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and safety. Continuing to expand India’s production and distribution will increase rotavirus vaccine availability for people who previously lacked it.

Access to country research and experience is critical to planning rotavirus vaccine introduction. But why embark on this daunting task alone? Every country is unique and requires localized meticulous planning, but India’s success with rotavirus vaccine introduction and switch from Rotasiil lyophilized to Rotasiil liquid and from Rotavac to Rotasiil products can inform others. Our Technical Support for Rotavirus Vaccine Introduction, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has built the technical capacity of in 36 state and UT governments to oversee comprehensive and high-quality vaccine introduction. Other countries should use India’s findings to plan rotavirus vaccine rollout and implementation.

JSIPL’s technical assistance is helping to ensure all preparations are made to ensure the smooth introduction of the rotavirus vaccine and integration into routine immunization services in the 36 states. The rotavirus vaccine introduction was an opportunity to re-evaluate gaps in the system and plan ways to fill gaps that apply to all routine immunization service plans. Overall, the symposium reinforced that vaccine introduction is an opportunity to strengthen the routine immunization system, rather than burden it.

JSIPL posters presented at the 14th International Rotavirus Symposium.

By Amanjot Kaur, Seema Singh Koshal, and Syed F. Quadri

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