GSK's rotavirus vaccine selected for British program

British health officials selected GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Rotarix vaccine for the country's first routine rotavirus immunization program.

The government added the two-dose oral vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule for three years starting September 2013. Babies aged 6 to 24 weeks will receive the vaccine, which protects against the virus that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in babies and young children in Britain, Reuters reports, sweeping through the bowel and stomach. Experts estimate every child will have at least one rotavirus infection before the age of 5.

The vaccine will cut down on the number of cases that occur, Adam Finn, a professor of pediatrics at Bristol University, told the news source.

"It will also help hospitals cope in the busy winter months by reducing pressure on bed and front-line staff," Finn said.

Rotarix ranked 11th among the top-selling vaccines of the first half of 2012, bringing in $266 million. Merck's ($MRK) rival rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, ranked 9th and brought in $284 million.

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