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India’s Rotavirus Vaccine Increases Risk of Serious Bowel Condition in Infants — Are U.S. Vaccines Any Safer?



Rotavac, the rotavirus vaccine used in India, increases the risk of intussusception in infants, according to a peer-reviewed study published Tuesday in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine.

Intussusception is a serious condition that occurs when the intestine slides or telescopes into itself, obstructing the bowel and potentially leading to gangrene or death if left untreated.

The study, co-authored by Dr. Jacob Puliyel of the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and Children’s Health Defense Chief Scientific Officer Brian Hooker, Ph.D., calls into question the safety of the vaccine and the statistical methods used in previous analyses of the product.

Puliyel told The Defender that although the rotavirus vaccines used in the U.S. — Merck’s RotaTeq and GSK’s Rotarix — are safer than the Rotavac brand used in India, a review of information sheets for the U.S. vaccines indicates concerns are still warranted.

Intussusception can be life-threatening

Puliyel and Hooker emphasized the need for parents and caregivers to be aware of the potential risk of intussusception associated with the Rotavac vaccine and to recognize the symptoms of this serious condition.

The sliding or telescoping of the intestine can block food or fluid from passing through and also can cut off the blood supply to the affected portion.

The most common symptoms in infants and young children include abdominal pain, vomiting, blood and mucus in stool, abdominal mass, and lethargy and irritability.

In a press release Wednesday, Hooker noted that “the first symptom of intussusception is typically the passage of blood and mucus in the stools,” sometimes referred to as “currant jelly” stool, which “parents can easily mistake … for infectious dysentery,” a more common condition.

As the condition worsens, infants may become increasingly lethargic, irritable and difficult to console. If left untreated, intussusception can lead to bowel necrosis, perforation and potentially life-threatening complications such as sepsis.

Intussusception often requires a fairly minor surgical intervention to prevent death, making it crucial for parents to be informed and vigilant.

This is especially important when the vaccine is administered in remote rural areas to the infants of poor, illiterate parents as part of a national immunization program such as India’s…


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