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Rotavirus Vaccine Could Sicken Some Infants

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An article in the New England Journal of Medicine has highlighted the risk posed to infants with severe immune deficiency from the rotavirus vaccine.

Rotavirus vaccine, which is administered in three doses between 6 and 32 weeks of age, is a live virus that has been weakened so that it does not present a threat of infection to children with normal immunity. It is generally recommended that children with severe combined immunodeficiency not be given vaccines made from live virus, but the condition is not usually diagnosed before the rotavirus vaccine is administered.

Children with severe combined immunodeficiency lack protection provided by key components of the immune system – the T- and B-cells. As a result, these children have no protection against many infections that can become life-threatening.

In three cases detailed by Baylor researchers, all of the infants received rotavirus vaccination prior diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency. Analysis of the viral genetic material in stool specimens from the infants revealed that the virus they contracted originated with the vaccine. The researchers pointed out that the infections could have been avoided had the infants been screen for severe combined immunodeficiency.

The American College of Medical Genetics recently recommended that severe combined immunodeficiency be included as a part of the newborn screen.

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