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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Studies Say New Rotavirus Vaccines Are Safe and Effective

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I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Studies show that two new vaccines are safe and effective to protect young children against a common cause of intestinal infection.

Guatemalan baby infected with rotavirus, 2004.
Guatemalan baby infected with rotavirus, 2004.

Rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea. The loss of fluids can be deadly unless it is treated. Most of the estimated half-million deaths each year are in poor countries. In fact, rotavirus disease is a leading killer of young children in the developing world.

The newly reported studies are among the largest vaccine tests ever done. Together, they involved more than one hundred thirty thousand children. The drug company GlaxoSmithKline makes one of the vaccines, Rotarix. Merck makes the other, called RotaTeq.

The study supported by GlaxoSmithKline involved more than sixty-three thousand children, mostly in Latin America. The researchers say Rotarix was eighty-five percent effective in protecting against severe rotavirus disease.

In the study for Merck, scientists say RotaTeq was ninety-eight percent effective. They tested it with sixty-eight thousand children mainly in developed places, including the United States.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the studies earlier this month. It also published a commentary by two scientists at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They say differences in the two studies and the populations observed might explain the different results. They say Rotarix may be just as effective as RotaTeq.

GlaxoSmithKline launched Rotarix in Mexico last year. It says the vaccine is now approved in twelve Latin American countries and also the Philippines and Singapore. And it says Rotarix could soon become the first rotavirus vaccine approved for children in the European Union. The company also plans to seek approval in the United States.

Both vaccine makers have announced plans for tests in poor counties in Africa and Asia.

RotaTeq is not for sale yet. Merck says the vaccine could get final approval later this year in the United States.

In nineteen ninety-nine, the drug maker Wyeth removed a rotavirus vaccine from the American market. That drug was blamed for some cases of a blockage in which one part of the intestine slides into the next. The studies of Rotarix and RotaTeq, however, say the two new vaccines did not show any increase in risk for that condition.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. You can read and listen to our reports at www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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