For the first time in Zambia, the 8th African Rotavirus Symposium (ARS) took place on 12-13th June in the Zambian tourism capital, Livingstone. This meeting was the largest symposium since inception attracting over 134 delegates representing 34 countries: 27 of which were African.
Under the theme ‘Rotavirus Landscape in Africa – Towards Prevention and Control’, leading global and African scientists academics, government immunisation programme officials and representatives from pharmaceutical companies met to discuss the achievements and challenges in the field of preventing deadly childhood diarrhoea caused by the rotavirus pathogen in Africa. Rotavirus causes the majority of diarrhoea in under-5 year olds and is a leading cause of death due to diarrhoea and dehydration.
CIDRZ played a key role as a local organizer of the event which was graced by the Honourable Minister of Community Development Mother and Child Health, Emerine Kabanshi, who gave the officially opening speech. The Hon. Minister congratulated CIDRZ for assisting the Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health to successfully conduct the pilot introduction of rotavirus vaccine which led to the National rollout of the vaccine in November 2013. “Zambia recently introduced three lifesaving vaccines—pneumococcal, measles second dose, and rotavirus—into our National Immunization Program. My Ministry has made the political and financial commitment to ensure that no Zambian child dies from vaccine preventable diseases.”
During the two-day event, over 35 scientific presentations and posters were discussed with representation from Mali, Mozambique, Kenya, Sao Tome and Angola, Mauritius, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda and India with Deputy Director of Child Health, Dr Penelope Kalesha delivering Lessons Learnt from Rotavirus Vaccine in Zambia. Key leaders in the rotavirus field attended the symposium including Dr Roger Glass Associate Director of International Research at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Dr Duncan Steel Senior Programme Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation; Dr Umesh Parashar Lead in the Division of Enteric Viruses Epidemiology Team of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr Jeffrey Mphahlele, Professor of Virology, University of Limpopo South Africa, Dr Jason Mwenda, WHO/AFRO Regional Coordinator for Vaccine Disease Surveillance, Dr George Armah, Head of the West African Regional Rotavirus Reference Laboratory, Ghana, and Dr Roma Chilengi, Director of Primary Care and Health Systems Strengthening, Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ).