In March, pediatricians were told by U.S. health officials to temporarily stop using one of the two vaccines used to prevent a leading cause of diarrhea in infants. This was done after they found doses of Glaxo-Smith-Kline’s Rotavirus contaminated with a benign pig virus.
Millions of children around the world have been vaccinated with Glaxo’s vaccine with no safety issues and the pig virus is not known to cause any type of illness in people or animals according to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who is the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
The Rotavirus causes extreme diarrhea and is the leading killer of children in developing countries. About 55,000 children in the U.S. were hospitalized for rotavirus infections before vaccination began with the Merck’s vaccine in 2006 and Glaxo’s in 2008.
Glaxo said that regulators abroad have decided not to alter how Rotarix is used as scientists research the importance of this new finding.
The oral vaccine, Rotarix, is created from a diluted strain of human rotavirus that is grown inside living cells before it is purified into a vaccine dose. Glaxo uses a line of monkey kidney cells or vero cells. According to Hamburg, the pig virus DNA fragments have been found in Glaxo’s cell bank. This means that they were there from the earliest development of the vaccine. It is not yet known how the contamination happened but an investigation is being performed.
The rotavirus vaccine created by Merck is made by a completely different process.