For Your Child

Study Confirms Safety of Rotavirus Vaccines

Updated versions of the vaccines against rotavirus don't seem to increase the risk for a potentially deadly side effect, a new study says.

Close-up photo of toddler sucking on thumb

In a recent check of national data, University of Michigan researchers found that two vaccines, introduced in 2006 and 2008, do not appear to cause a potentially fatal bowel obstruction called intussusception - unlike the previous rotavirus vaccine taken off the market in 1999.

Bowel complication

Intussusception is a condition in which one part of the bowel slides, or telescopes, into another section, causing a painful and potentially deadly blockage. It is often diagnosed after a severe bout of gastroenteritis in children. Gastroenteritis is an irritation or infection of the stomach and intestines that can lead to abdominal pain and diarrhea. It may be caused by bacteria or parasites, irritating food, stress, or emotional upset.

Most children will get sick from rotavirus sometime in their first five years. The virus is extremely contagious, and until recently, was the leading cause of diarrhea and vomiting in infants and children in the U.S. Vaccination has helped reduce the number of cases, as well as the severity of diarrhea and its complications in infants.

"We always need to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of childhood vaccines," says lead author Joseph Zickafoose, M.D., at the University of Michigan. "Fortunately, our results suggest that rotavirus vaccines have not increased the rate of intussusception in the U.S."

Surprising results

Investigators were surprised to find only 33.3 cases of intussusception per 100,000 children during 2009. They expected to find 36 cases per 100,000 children. This helped confirm their belief that the new vaccines did not cause any additional cases of intussusception.

Dr. Zickafoose hopes this study reassures parents that the benefits of rotavirus vaccine outweigh the risks.

The study was published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - Rotavirus

CDC - Rotavirus Vaccination

National Network for Immunization Information - Rotavirus

March 2012

What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a viral infection that causes severe diarrhea in children, particularly in youngsters under age 2. It causes up to 10 percent of all cases of diarrhea in children under age 5. The infection is dangerous for young children because it causes them to lose body fluids very quickly.

Symptoms generally appear two to three days after a child is infected. The early symptoms are fever, an upset stomach, and vomiting. Other possible symptoms are a cough and runny nose. These symptoms are followed by abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea. The diarrhea can be mild to severe, and can last three to nine days. The danger of severe diarrhea in children under age 3 is dehydration, which can be fatal if not treated.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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