Rotavirus spreads easily among infants and small children. The disease causes severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever, or abdominal pain that can last between three and eight days; for babies, the risk of dehydration is high and extremely dangerous. Fortunately, a vaccine is available to protect these vulnerable individuals from such pain and risk. According to a new study performed by the University of Michigan, this vaccine has also been associated with a lower risk of developing type one diabetes.
The study focused on a group of children who received all their recommended doses of the rotavirus vaccine. On the whole, they found that these inoculated children had a 33% lower risk than unvaccinated children of being diagnosed with type one diabetes. Because type one diabetes is a lifelong disease with no known prevention strategies or cure, this data is invaluable.
However, the study’s leader, epidemiologist Mary A.M. Rogers, Ph.D., has cautioned that they cannot yet show a cause-and-effect relationship between rotavirus vaccination and type one diabetes risk.
“This is an uncommon condition, so it takes large amounts of data to see any trends across a population,” said Rogers, an associate professor in the U-M Department of Internal Medicine. “It will take more time and analyses to confirm these findings. But we do see a decline in type one diabetes in young children after the rotavirus vaccine was introduced.”
Tragically, the study also found that more than 25% of American children don’t get fully vaccinated against rotavirus, although the rate varies widely across the country. (Less than half of the children in New England and Pacific states were fully vaccinated, while two-thirds of children in the central part of the country were fully vaccinated). The CDC recommends that infants receive the multidose vaccine — which is administered via oral drops — no later than 15 weeks of age and finish receiving it before they are eight months old.
Vaccines are estimated to prevent more than 2.5 million unnecessary deaths every year. If you have a newborn, don’t take the risk that they’ll suffer from rotavirus or type one diabetes; get them vaccinated on schedule.