Henry Bernstein, D.O.

Q: My infant daughter was vaccinated three weeks ago against the virus that causes diarrhea. I just learned that this vaccine should not be given to babies. Do I need to worry?

A: No, there's need to worry and I'm glad to hear that she got this vaccine. It helps protect her from a rotavirus infection, a leading cause of diarrhea in infants and children. Two drug companies make rotavirus vaccine. One of the vaccines is called Rotarix, the other is RotaTeq.

Before these two vaccines were licensed, rotavirus led to many doctor and emergency room visits, hospital stays and even deaths.

Researchers just made a surprise discovery. They noted some broken pieces of DNA from an extra virus in the Rotarix vaccine. The extra virus is called porcine circovirus 1 (PCV1). In response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that doctors stop giving Rotarix.

PCV1 usually infects pigs, but is not known to affect humans or cause disease in pigs. Experts don't think that the extra pieces of virus have any effect on the Rotarix vaccine. An in-depth study by the FDA is expected to confirm this belief.

Don't worry if your child was given Rotarix rather than RotaTeq. Rotarix has been well studied for years. Research shows there are no risks from getting the vaccine. It is possible that PCV1 has been in Rotarix since the vaccine was first made, but was only discovered now.

PCV1 has not been found in RotaTeq, the other rotavirus vaccine licensed in the United States. RotaTeq is made using a different process from Rotarix.

While we wait for more information about Rotarix, health care professionals can give RotaTeq instead. Some children have received one dose of Rotarix. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these children should complete the series with RotaTeq for the next two doses.

PCV1 is a virus. It is not an animal product. Therefore, this recent finding has nothing to do with food safety.

Protect yourself and your family from rotavirus illness by washing your hands thoroughly, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet. Always wash your hands before and after preparing food. And make sure that infants receive all recommended doses of rotavirus vaccine by mouth in their first six months of life.

(Henry H. Bernstein, D.O., is a Senior Lecturer in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Bernstein is Chief of General Academic Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and Professor of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School.)

© Harvard Health Letter






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