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Equity and impact: Ontario’s infant rotavirus immunization program five years following implementation. A population-based cohort study


Background — Ontario implemented a publicly-funded rotavirus (RV) immunization program in 2011. Our objectives were to evaluate its impact on hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits for acute gastroenteritis (AGE) five years after implementation.

Methods — We performed a population-based longitudinal retrospective cohort study to identify hospitalizations and ED visits for RV-AGE and overall AGE in all age groups using ICD-10 codes between August 1, 2005 and March 31, 2016. A negative binomial regression model that included the effect of time was used to calculate rates, rate ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for AGE before and after the program’s implementation, after adjusting for age, seasonality and secular trends. We examined the seasonality of RV-AGE hospitalizations among children under five before and after the program and explored its equity impact.

Results — Following program implementation, RV-AGE hospitalizations and ED visits among children under five years declined by 76% (RR 0.24, 95% CI 0.20–0.28) and 68% (RR 0.32, 95% CI 0.21–0.50), respectively. In addition, hospitalizations and ED visits for overall AGE declined by 38% (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.59–0.65) and 26% (RR 0.74, 95% CI 0.73–0.76), respectively, among children under age five. Significant reductions in both outcomes were also found across a range of age-strata. In the pre-program period, the mean monthly hospitalization rate for RV-AGE among children residing in the most marginalized neighbourhoods was 33% higher than those residing in the least marginalized (RR 1.33, 95% CI 1.17–1.52), this disparity was not evident in the program period (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.69–1.32). We found no evidence of a seasonal shift in rotavirus pediatric hospitalizations.

Interpretation — The introduction of routine infant rotavirus immunization has had a substantial population impact in Ontario. Our study confirms herd effects and suggests the program may have reduced previous inequities in the burden of pediatric rotavirus hospitalizations.



Wilson SE, Rosella LC, Wang J, Renaud A, Le Saux N, Crowcroft NS, Desai S, Harris T, Bolotin S, Gubbay J, Deeks SL. Vaccine. 2019; 37(17):2408-14. Epub 2019 Feb 11.

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