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Why we vaccinate–protect kids from rotavirus induced seizures


H. Fred Clark and Paul Offit, the inventors of RotaTeq, a pentavalent rotavirus vaccine.

H. Fred Clark and Paul Offit, the inventors of RotaTeq, a pentavalent rotavirus vaccine.

Rotavirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Rotavirus causes severe watery diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. In babies and young children, it can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids). Globally, it causes more than a half a million deaths each year in children younger than 5 years of age. 

Prior to the launch of the rotavirus vaccine (RotaTeq® or Rotarix®) in the United States in 2006, rotavirus was the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children. Before the vaccine became available, almost all children in the United States were infected with rotavirus before their 5th birthday. Each year, in the US, rotavirus lead to more than 400,000 doctor visits; more than 200,000 emergency room visits; 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations; and 20 to 60 deaths in children younger than 5 years of age. After the introduction and widespread use of the vaccine, a Cochrane systematic review concluded that the rotavirus vaccines may prevent up to 96% of severe diarrhea cases arising from rotavirus.

The rotavirus vaccine is one of the routine childhood vaccines that is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for infants.

But sometimes, a vaccine, like for rotavirus, is much more useful than just preventing the disease it’s supposed to prevent. For example, a recently published study concluded that children vaccinated against rotavirus exhibited  a lower risk of seizures during rotavirus infections. There is substantial evidence that seizures are linked with rotavirus infections.

This study established that children who were received the rotavirus immunization were significantly less likely to experience seizures compared to children unvaccinated against rotavirus. The results of the study, which used data from the system called the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), a grouping of nine USA-based advanced managed-care medical systems that closely track vaccinations, medical records and outcomes. This system is substantially better at tracking actual adverse events and vaccine effectiveness than a poorly designed, passive recording system like VAERS, supported the hypothesis that the rotavirus vaccines prevent certain types of seizures.

The researchers analyzed the medical data for each of the over 250,000 children born within the VSD system between 28 February 2006 (when the rotavirus vaccine was first introduced in the USA) and November 2009. The results were:

  • Of the 250,000 children tracked, 74 percent (186,502) had been vaccinated against rotavirus; about 27 percent of the children (64,099) were not vaccinated against rotavirus.
  • Taking into account differences in the ages, sex, geographic location, and the month first seen by their doctor, the researchers then compared the rates of seizures among these children.
  • The researchers found that children who received the rotavirus vaccines were about 18% less likely to have a first time seizure compared to those who were unvaccinated.
  • Vaccinated children were 21% less likely to have any seizures at all compared to unvaccinated children.

The researchers concluded that “a full course of rotavirus vaccination was statistically associated with an 18 to 21 percent reduction in risk of seizure requiring hospitalization or emergency department care in the year following vaccination, compared with unvaccinated children. This reduction in childhood seizures complements the well-documented vaccine-related benefit of preventing US diarrhea hospitalizations.”

Let’s review. The rotavirus vaccines prevents a gastrointestinal virus that causes from 55,000 to 70,000 hospital visits in the USA every year. And this vaccine prevents from 20-60 deaths a year from rotavirus in the USA. And now we see that it prevents serious rotavirus-induced seizures. 

Refusing this vaccine for your children is reprehensible. The rotavirus vaccine saves lives, reduces hospitalizations, and prevents harm to children. And I have evidence to support that.

PS. Dr. Paul Offit, MD, invented one of the two rotavirus vaccines; whatever lies spread by the antivaccination crowd about Dr. Offit, he’s saved lives. Lots of them. What have you vaccine deniers done but hurt kids? I await your answers.

If you need to search for scientific information and evidence about vaccines try the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

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Michael Simpson

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