Study shows safety of rotavirus vaccine

A new study led by Irene Shui from Harvard Medical School, has found that the rotavirus vaccine does not increase the risk of blocked bowels in infants.

The findings are similar to a recent report that found that the number of hospitalizations for intussusception - when one part of the intestine slides inside another - does not significantly increase after infants are vaccinated with the rotavirus vaccine. The vaccine protects babies against severe diarrhea, Reuters reports.

"We can't rule out that a low-level risk could exist," Shui said, according to Reuters. "(But) our results do add to the message that even if there was a low-level risk of intussusception, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh those risks,"

An initial version of the rotavirus vaccine that was introduced in 1998 was pulled the following year after increased reports of intussusception. Two newer vaccines did not increase the risks during pre-approval testing, but had since been linked to slightly higher-than-normal bowel problems in Australian and Mexican infants. Researchers found no significant difference in the number of intussusception cases before and after the vaccine was re-introduced.

"(The new study) should reassure families that the rotavirus vaccine is safe and that the benefits of preventing severe illness and ending up in the hospital outweigh any risks, which we don't seem to be finding," Joseph Zickafoose, a communicable disease and pediatrics researcher at the University of Michigan, said, according to Reuters.