Rotavirus is a gastrointestinal disease that is prevalent in the developing world. It had been common in the United States also until about two decades ago when a program of vaccinations began. The vaccine has reduced the number of rotavirus cases in the U.S. but has not completely eliminated them. Still, there are a number of complications and side effects of the rotavirus vaccine that parents should be aware of before they make vaccination decisions for their children.
Prior to the rotavirus vaccine, there were roughly three million cases annually of rotavirus in the U.S. Up to 70,000 people annually were hospitalized by the disease, although it was rarely fatal. Still, there were up to 40 fatalities every year from the virus.
What Is Rotavirus?
Rotavirus mostly impacts young babies and children, although it can strike adults. The disease causes severe diarrhea and vomiting and can lead to dehydration. Rotavirus can also cause a high fever.
While there has been a sharp drop in the number of cases of the virus, there are still periodic outbreaks from time to time. In 2017, there were several outbreaks in California and both those who were vaccinated as well as others who did not receive the vaccine were sickened by the illness. One child died from the virus.
Children can still get rotavirus, but those who have not been vaccinated have a higher chance of contracting the disease. There is still a rotavirus season although, with the advent of the vaccine, it is not an annual season anymore. Rotavirus is no longer seasonal and can strike at any time of the year.
The Two Rotavirus Vaccines
There are two rotavirus vaccines that are approved for use in the U.S. There is RotaTeq which is made by Merck. This is a vaccine that contains five strains of attenuated rotavirus. It is administered in three doses between the ages of two and six months. The second is Rotarix which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. It also is an attenuated virus vaccine and is given in two doses. Both of the vaccines are given orally under the tongue as opposed through an intravenous injection like many other vaccines. Both of these vaccines followed an initial attempt by Wyeth at a rotavirus vaccine which was pulled from the market after it was found to cause bowel obstruction in some children.
The rotavirus vaccines were briefly taken off the market in 2010 when porcine circovirus DNA was found in the vaccines. However, the FDA reinstated use of these vaccines shortly thereafter when it was verified that this did not pose a safety risk.
Rotavirus Vaccine Side Effects
While side effects from these vaccines are not widespread, they can be potentially serious for a small number of children. The mild side effects from rotavirus vaccines can include temporary vomiting and diarrhea. This happens because strains of the virus are introduced into the body and sometimes patients will develop the side effects that are a symptom of the disease being vaccinated against.
The more severe side effects are similar to the one that caused the initial vaccine to be pulled from the market, albeit these occur at a lower rate than Wyeth’s vaccine. This side effect is called intussusception. This is a form of bowel blockage that occurs when the bowel folds into itself. This keeps stool from passing through the bowel.
Most cases of intussusception are treatable in a physician’s office through a burst of air or fluid that corrects the bowel. However, some cases of intussusception are more severe and can require surgery to repair. The most severe cases will require a resection of the bowel which is a partial removal of some of the bowel. Presumably, these are the cases of side effects from the rotavirus vaccine that lead to financial compensation for the families of these children. The risk of intussusception is about 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 children.
The second type of side effect is one that can be suffered in any type of vaccination. Those who receive the vaccine can develop an allergic reaction to it. The most severe cases of allergic reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock which can cause difficulty breathing. Severe allergic reactions to the rotavirus vaccine are rare, occurring once in about every one million doses. Still, a severe vaccine allergic reaction can kill the patient in very rare circumstances. This is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. Given the fact that the vaccine is given when the child is two months old, you most likely will not know that they are allergic until after they receive the vaccine.
According to data provided by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, there were almost 100 million doses of rotavirus vaccine administered from the time that it was approved through the end of 2016. While the vaccine has a lower rate of complications, there have still been a number of cases in front of the VICP that have resulted in compensation for the families of patients. There have been a total of 46 cases that have been filed with the VICP seeking compensation. 36 of them have resulted in compensation for the families while ten have resulted in dismissal or a finding that the claim was not compensable. The number of total cases filed increased to 57 by the end of 2019. This is a lower rate than other childhood vaccine like the Tdap vaccine.
If your child has been injured by the rotavirus vaccine, you have the ability to file a claim for financial compensation with the VICP. Contact a vaccine injury lawyer at The Law Offices Of Sadaka Associates to find out how you can begin the process of filing a claim.
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