UVM Vaccine Testing Center Receives Grant to Study Oral Vaccine Failure in Less Developed Countries

$2.2 million, 2.5 year research award from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

BURLINGTON, Vt. - The UVM Vaccine Testing Center received a $2.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further their research on the oral rotavirus vaccine.

Dawn Bourne says eight-year-old Ivy is up to date on all her vaccinations, including the oral rotavirus vaccine, which is administered through oral drops.

"If a drop on the tongue will keep a smile on that face, then I'm all for it,” said Bourne.

She says if a vaccine wasn't working in the United States, she would want answers.

“In other countries and third world countries where vaccines aren't working, we do need to find out why,” said Bourne.

That's what the UVM Vaccine Testing Center is trying to do.

The vaccine helps protect against the gastrointestinal rotavirus, which can cause severe dehydration, and has lead to 450,000 deaths worldwide.

It is often spread by children, through their contact with other kids.

Sean Diehl, Ph.D. is a co-investigator on the grant to find out why the vaccine isn't working in some countries.

"What we're going to be doing is looking more into developing new tests- new blood test that ask whether the immune system has made a big enough impact on the virus,” said Diehl.

Ross Colgate, M.P.H. is another investigator on the grant.

She's been researching the effects of the oral vaccine in less developed countries, like Bangladesh.

"We're talking 95 percent effective here in the U.S., but in Bangladesh, it's much lower. It's less than 50 percent effective in those kids,” said Colgate.

She says there could be a number of reasons why.

"Mother's breast milk, maternal antibodies, the environment these kids grow up in. We recruited all 700 babies from the urban slums of the capital city, Dhaka. So they're living in really challenging environments that cause multiple infections early in life,” said Colgate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says before the introduction of a rotavirus vaccine, the illness caused an estimated 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations and dozens of deaths in children under five-years-old in the U.S. each year.

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