New study disputes findings on rotavirus vaccines

February 7, 2012 2:54:51 PM PST
Rotavirus strikes kids under five. It's the most common cause of stomach flu.

Fever, vomiting and diarrhea in a baby from rotavirus can be prevented with two vaccines, but recent studies done outside the U.S. say the vaccines can cause a potentially life-threatening intestinal problem.

A large American report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says the vaccine does no such thing.

Baby Jose, baby Stanislav and their moms went to see their pediatricians for routine immunizations including the rotavirus vaccine.

Several years ago a rotavirus vaccine was withdrawn from the market after being linked to an increased risk of intussusceptions, which is a rare disorder where part of the small or large intestine slides forward into itself like a telescope, causing severe abdominal pain and vomiting.

Dr. Irene Shui studied the most potent of the two rotavirus vaccines on the market. Almost 800-thousand infants age four to 34 weeks received this vaccine from may 2006 to February 2010, including more than 300-thousand first doses.

"Our study did not find an increased risk of intussusceptions following the rotavirus vaccine," she said. "This result was the same whether we looked at a one to 30 days risk window following all doses of the vaccine and in particular when we looked at the first week following the first dose we also did not see an increased risk."

Researchers say introduction of the rotavirus vaccine has a tremendous public health impact for children like Jose and Stan.

"The benefits from rotavirus vaccine in terms of reducing number of hospitalizations and deaths from rotavirus disease far outweigh the potential risk of intussusceptions that might exist," Dr. Shui said.

The American researchers couldn't explain the different results in their study from previous ones. They theorized that there may be genetic or environmental factors that differed between the U.S. And the foreign study children. Because the vaccine can prevent serious disease, the authors were in favor of vaccination based on this report.

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