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New rotavirus vaccines seem safer, studies find

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Newer vaccines against rotavirus, a severe diarrheal disease in children, slightly raise the risk of a rare bowel problem that doomed an earlier vaccine, new studies show. But researchers say the modern vaccines are much safer and well worth this very small risk.

Rotavirus kills more than 400,000 young children a year, mostly in poor countries. In the United States, good medical care usually keeps it from being fatal, but it used to cause as many as 1 in 10 hospitalizations of young kids.

The first rotavirus vaccine came out in 1998 but was withdrawn a year later after it was linked to intussusception, a rare and serious twisted bowel condition. Doctors hoped that two newer versions — Merck’s RotaTeq and GlaxoSmithKline’s Rotarix, which came out in 2006 and 2008 — would avoid that problem.

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