Second try at protecting children against rotavirus gastroenteritis

March 1, 2006

Pediatricians are all too familiar with rotavirus infection: Estimates are that 2.7 million episodes of rotavirus gastroenteritis make babies-and their parents-miserable each year. Most affected children recover on their own, but approximately 250,000 suffer dehydration serious enough to necessitate a visit to the emergency room and as many as 70,000 of those end up hospitalized.

Pediatricians are all too familiar with rotavirus infection: Estimates are that 2.7 million episodes of rotavirus gastroenteritis make babies-and their parents-miserable each year. Most affected children recover on their own, but approximately 250,000 suffer dehydration serious enough to necessitate a visit to the emergency room and as many as 70,000 of those end up hospitalized.

Ten years ago, when a rotavirus vaccine was approved by the FDA and included in the Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule, it appeared that the rotavirus story might be headed for a happy ending. But that vaccine (RotaShield, Wyeth-Lederle) was withdrawn after less than a year because it appeared to be associated with an increased risk of bowel intussusception. Rotavirus infection once again seemed an inevitable winter visitor.

Last month, however, things began looking up again. Two new rotavirus vaccines, both effective and both apparently able to avoid an association with intussusception, have appeared on the scene: