“A decade of rotavirus vaccination in Africa – Saving lives and changing the face of diarrhoeal disease”

About the Symposium

The 12th African Rotavirus Symposium (ARS) will be hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 30th July 2019 to the 1st August 2019, in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council. The 12th ARS will be held in South Africa to coincide with the 20th Anniversary of the African Rotavirus Network and the 50th Anniversary of the South African Medical Research Council. This highly sought-after event, organised under the auspices of the African Rotavirus Network (AfrRN), has over the years grown from a half-day symposium to now a 3-day global event as it continues to shape the agenda of rotavirus research and prevention globally, attracting key international opinion leaders in diarrheal diseases. The AfrRN is a regional network of institutions conducting research on paediatric diarrhoeal diseases in collaboration with the World Health Organisation African Regional Office (WHO AFRO), Ministries of Health and other partners.

The AfrRN began in 1998 in response to the need to address diarrhoeal disease, which was a continental disease that was under-researched in Africa. In particular, there was a crucial need to determine rotavirus burden of disease, the diversity of circulating strains, and increase awareness around rotavirus disease in Africa. The first ARS was held in South Africa in 2000 and since then several more symposia have been organised in different African countries. The last two meetings were held in Lilongwe, Malawi (2017) and Bamako, Mali (2015).

The ARS series are aimed at bringing African rotavirus researchers, policy-makers, clinicians, public health practitioners and health officials together to share ideas, expertise and learning across organizations and countries in the areas of rotavirus vaccine introduction, vaccine impact and diarrheal disease prevention and control in Africa. The AfrRN also established the African Rotavirus Surveillance Network (AfrRSN) in 1999 to conduct research to facilitate evidence-based decision making on the introduction of rotavirus vaccines in the African region and to create a platform to study the impact of the rotavirus vaccine on diarrhoea post-introduction. The AfrRSN is a regional network of institutions and Ministries of Health conducting core surveillance on diarrhoeal diseases in children, which depends entirely on effective National Surveillance Programmes. The WHO AFRO (Congo, Brazzaville) currently coordinates the AfrRSN.

96 countries worldwide have introduced rotavirus vaccines

The 12th ARS comes at an important time, as 96 countries worldwide, including 33 in Africa, have introduced rotavirus vaccines. The growing in-country experiences on vaccine introduction and scientific endeavours that continue to grow on the continent have been encouraging and the 2019 symposium affords us an opportunity for garnering momentum to ensure that every African child receives a rotavirus vaccine.

Key Symposium Objectives

  • Review and share global epidemiological trends on rotavirus diarrhoea.
  • Share progress and experiences on rotavirus vaccine introduction, impact and safety monitoring in African countries.
  • Enable networking for research, academia and career growth among rotavirus researchers and program implementers.
  • Review and shape agenda for research/surveillance on other diarrhoeal pathogens.



The symposium is possible through the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the South African Medical Research Council, World Health Organisation and other sponsors.