Rotavirus vaccine working well for U.S. kids

By Tom Nordlie • Published: February 24th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The idea of a universal, shared human experience might bring up thoughts of idyllic summer afternoons on the beach, the birth of a child and wedding celebrations.

It probably won’t bring to mind vomiting and diarrhea.

But those are symptoms caused by rotavirus [ROW-tuh-vy-russ], a common viral infection that wreaks havoc in the small intestine. In the past, almost every person on Earth suffered a rotavirus infection by the age of five.

At best, this illness causes several days of gastrointestinal misery. And for half a million children each year worldwide, it causes death.

Since 2006, a rotavirus vaccine has been widely available in the U.S. But does it really work? A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the answer is yes.

In the study, researchers evaluated rotavirus infections in U.S. children under the age of 5. The data spanned the years 2007 through 2009, after the vaccine had come into wide use. And to make nationwide projections, the researchers examined data on 300,000 children from 37 states.

About one-third of them had been immunized against rotavirus.

The results of the study showed that children who’d been immunized were at least 60 percent less likely to be hospitalized for rotavirus infection, compared with those who didn’t get the shot.

The vaccine prevented about 32,000 hospitalizations per year and saved about 140-million dollars annually.

So, if you’ve recently welcomed a little boy or girl into the world, you might want to consider having the baby immunized against rotavirus.

Yes, it might cause your child to miss out on a rite of passage.

But in this case, it seems like the “rite” is definitely wrong, from a health standpoint. And rotavirus is definitely something worth missing.