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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Rotavirus Vaccine Has Cut Hospitalization of Kids

Study Shows ER Visits Have Been Reduced Since CDC Recommended Vaccine in 2006

Rotavirus Vaccine Risks

The main concern with the rotavirus vaccine is a risk of intussusception, a potentially life-threatening bowel blockage. An earlier rotavirus vaccine was removed from the market because it increased risk for intussusception.

As far as the newer rotavirus vaccines, "there have been data from international settings including Mexico, Brazil, and Latin America that suggest a low level risk of intussusception," Parashar says. In general, "this risk is five- to 10-fold lower than what was seen with the earlier rotavirus vaccine."

This level of risk has not been seen in the U.S., he says.

But "we still don't have enough to confidently exclude a low risk," Parashar says. According to the CDC, the estimated risk of intussusception is one case per 100,000 infants.

"The benefit-risk ratio is clearly on the side of benefit even if such a risk were to be found. These vaccines prevent what is the single most common [cause] of severe diarrhea in U.S. children. Parents should get their children vaccinated against rotavirus."

Greg Yapalater, MD, a New York City pediatrician in private practice, is not ready to endorse the rotavirus vaccine, yet. "With any new vaccine, I need to see a good safety profile and there are still some cases of intussusception," he says. "I am concerned."

He is taking a watch-and-wait approach before recommending that infants receive the rotavirus vaccine. "I don't vaccinate against something that could cause dehydration if there is a chance the vaccine could cause a condition that is life-threatening," he says. "I love the concept of the vaccine, but need to see a better safety profile."

Watch Out for Dehydration

Tamara R. Kuittinen, MD, is the director of medical education at the department of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She is also a mom.

"This study confirms that it is a useful vaccine," she says. "You don't want your infant or children to end up in the hospital with this virus."

"Kids with rotavirus won't eat or drink and get dehydrated and then come to hospital and may get admitted, and then they are exposed to other infections," Kuittinen tells WebMD.

Avoiding dehydration is the key, she says. Try to get your child to drink liquids, she says. "Ice pops may also help kids with rotavirus stay hydrated."

Learning the warning signs of severe dehydration also can help parents know when to get help. These include:

  • Decrease in the number of wet diapers
  • Lack of tears
  • Dry mouth
  • Listlessness
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