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Rotavirus Vaccine Carries Risk of Intussusception

By Joanna Karpasea-Jones
 
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A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has revealed that the rotavirus vaccine is associated with an increased risk of intussusception.

Intussusception is a bowel disorder where the intestines are pulled inside themselves causing a blockage. It is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. The involved part of the intestine is compressed so the blood flow to the area is greatly reduced, which may cause that part of the intestine to die and lead to shock in the patient. Rapid detection is needed to avoid sepsis and possible death.

Symptoms of intussusception include abdominal pain, vomiting (babies will cry loudly and draw their legs up in pain), passing stools that are like jelly and have blood in them, fever, paleness and drowsiness.

Depending on the severity of the condition, intussusception can be treated with an enema to reverse the bowel obstruction. If the bowel has ruptured, this cannot be done because the enema itself can cause bowel perforation. More severe cases are treated by surgery to repair the bowel. Sometimes, part of the bowel has to be removed if a section of it has died.

About 615 patients were enrolled to receive a new rotavirus vaccine, RV1, and a further 2,050 people were enrolled as the control group. The medical journal didn’t say whether the control group was also vaccinated with other vaccines or what the placebo was.

In Mexico, there was an increased risk of intussusception between one and seven days after the first dose of RV1. In Brazil, an increased risk was noted one to seven days after the second dose of RV1, which amounted to one in 51,000 infants in Mexico, and one in 68,000 infants in Brazil.

This isn’t the first time such an association has been made. In October of 1999, the original rotavirus vaccine, RotaShield, was withdrawn 14 months after its approval by the FDA because it caused intussusception in about one in every 10,000 children. During that time, two children died, 47 required medical care and 53 needed surgery to fix bowel obstructions following vaccination.

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EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Great article Joanna... yet again breast feeding and common sense prevails in reducing disease. I am still in shock that up to a quarter a billion more children in Developing countries will be given this vaccine...in fact they are meeting this week behind closed doors in Seattle to discuss the distribution logistics! The Rotavirus vaccine should not be given to those with infections, esp Aids and HIV, and must be given 3 times under 6 months. 1 or 2 doses has no study for efficacy and over 6 months the risk of high fever is too great. I can't see NGOs (under pressure from GAVI perhaps) being able to deliver this vaccine safely.
Anna www.arnica.org.uk

June 21, 2011 - 3:15am
Joanna Karpasea-Jones (reply to Anonymous)

Yes, I worry how the third world campaigns are going to be managed and wonder if GAVI have put enough safety plans in place?? Children vaccinated in developed countries have access to adrenaline in the event of allergic reaction, they have vaccines that are 'safer' (such as IPV instead of live oral polio vaccine that can cause polio and DTaP that causes less local reactions than DPT), they have easy access to hospitals and it is easier to store the vaccines.

In third world countries they are routinely given vaccines ruled unsafe in the developed world (such as a brand of MMR that was withdrawn for causing meningitis and they then used it in Brazil), because it is cheaper to use these banned vaccines. Many vaccine camps I read about did not have adrenaline or any emergency facilities to deal with allergic reactions and many parents live in remote areas with no access to hospital in the event of a side-effect.

There are problems with the cold chain and keeping the vaccines at the right temperature so kids end up getting injected with spoiled vaccines and this can cause death. India have recorded officially 128 deaths from vaccines in 2010, which may be down to cold chain problems (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-29/india/29596453_1_...).

I think if they are going to spend that much money on vaccine campaigns they need to improve the cold chain, improve the hospitals, make sure there are emergency facilities in areas where they vaccinate and there should be a blanket ban universally on all vaccines that were withdrawn.

June 22, 2011 - 3:31am
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