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Novartis Found Symp. 2001;238:153-71; discussion 171-9.

A rotavirus vaccine for prevention of severe diarrhoea of infants and young children: development, utilization and withdrawal.

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Epidemiology Section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20852, USA.


The importance of rotaviruses (RVs) as the single most important cause of severe diarrhoea of infants and young children is well recognized. At NIH, we developed a quadrivalent (tetravalent [TV]) vaccine to protect against the four epidemiologically important RV serotypes. It is comprised of live attenuated rhesus RV (RRV), a VP7 serotype G3 strain (the 'Jennerian' approach), and three reassortant RVs, each containing 10 RRV genes and one human RV gene that codes for the major outer protein, VP7, that determines serotype G1, G2 or G4 specificity (the 'modified Jennerian' approach). The vaccine was safe and effective against severe diarrhoea in a major prelicensure collaborative effort of phase III trials. In February 1998 and again in June 1998, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended routine immunization with three oral doses at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. The tetravalent vaccine (RotaShield) was licensed in the USA by the FDA in August 1998. In July 1999, after about 1.5 million doses had been given, the CDC recommended suspending administration of the vaccine because post-licensure surveillance of adverse events had suggested an association with intussusception. After further investigation by CDC, in October 1999, the ACIP withdrew its recommendation concluding that '...intussusception occurs with significantly increased frequency in the first 1-2 weeks after vaccination with RRV-TV, particularly following the first dose'. The implications of these developments from a practical, epidemiological, analytical and ethical perspective are discussed.

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