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Rotavirus vaccine linked to small risk of serious bowel complications in infants

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According to LiveScience on Tuesday, a common vaccine commonly given to infants to prevent rotavirus has been linked to serious intestinal complications in a new study that followed .

Infants who receive the rotavirus vaccine, which protects against a severe diarrheal disease, may have a very small risk of developing a serious intestinal disorder called intussusception, the study found, which involved children aged 1 month to 9 months old who were enrolled in one of three US health plans and received the vaccine between 2004 and mid-2011.

What is intussusception?

Intussusception (in-tuh-suh-SEP-shun) is a serious disorder in which part of the intestine slides into an adjacent part of the intestine. This "telescoping" often blocks food or fluid from passing through. Intussusception also cuts off the blood supply to the part of the intestine that's affected. Intussusception can lead to a tear in the bowel (perforation), infection and death of bowel tissue.

In the study, researchers examined information collected from the administration of 1.2 million doses of RotaTeq, the most common rotavirus vaccine used in the United States, and more than 100,000 doses of Rotarix, another rotavirus vaccine licensed for use in the U.S. (The rotavirus vaccination is given as a two- or three-shot series to infants ages 2 to 6 months.)

The RotaShield vaccine carried a risk of about one or two cases of bowel obstruction per 10,000 vaccine recipients.

The risk of intussusception with the monovalent Rotarix was about nine times higher than the risk with the pentavalent RotaTeq vaccine.

The benefits of the rotavirus vaccine -- preventing the viral infection and hospitalization of infants -- outweigh the risk of the bowel complication, Yih said. "In a typical five-year period following a typical year for births, the vaccine will probably prevent more than 50,000 hospitalizations."

Vaccines have come under fire in recent years for several reasons, including the belief that some may cause vaccines.

"If I were the parent of an infant, I would not decline it," lead researcher W. Katherine Yih said of the vaccine. "I'd do it for the protection of my child, and those who can't receive it due to being immunocompromised." Among those with weakened immune systems, she said, are children on certain cancer treatments.

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Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.

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