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Study shows rotavirus vaccinations safe for babies in NICU

IANS May 04, 2024

Administering the rotavirus vaccine to babies in the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) is safe and does not cause any outbreaks of the disease, according to a new study.

Rotaviruses are majorly responsible for diarrhoeal disease among infants and young children. The vaccine, which contains a weakened form of the virus to produce a stronger immune response, is administered via drops.

Researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, US noted that preterm infants, usually kept in the NICU, are at higher risk of the highly contagious but preventable virus, yet few receive the vaccine over transmission fears.

To understand, the team conducted an analysis of 3,448 weekly stool samples from 774 patients between January 2021 and January 2022.

They found that “99.3 per cent of non-vaccinated patients exposed to vaccinated patients did not test positive for the disease. Non-vaccinated patients that contracted rotavirus had no symptoms after 14 days.”

"Our yearlong, prospective study done in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the benefits of vaccinating NICU patients against rotavirus outweigh the risks," said Kathleen Gibbs, MD, the study's lead neonatologist from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

“In-patient vaccination allows protection of a vulnerable population against a common, preventable cause of severe diarrhoeal illness,” she added.

The findings are important because many NICUs avoid vaccinating against rotavirus due to a theoretical risk of transmission, yet some infants are too old to receive the vaccine once discharged from the NICU.

According to the CDC guidelines, the first dose must be administered before 15 weeks of age. The study findings will be presented at the ongoing Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2024 Meeting, being held in Toronto, Canada.

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