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New rotavirus vaccine joins routine infant immunization schedule

The federal agency that oversees childhood vaccinations today recommended a new vaccine for routine use against rotavirus infection, a common childhood illness that is the single largest infectious disease killer of infants and young children worldwide. Three scientists associated with The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and The Wistar Institute are co-inventors of the vaccine, based on research dating to 1980.

Meeting today in Atlanta, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an expert panel selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, added the new RotaTeq vaccine, manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc., to its list of routinely recommended childhood immunizations. Today's decision follows the vaccine's approval for licensing earlier this month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Rotavirus affects nearly all children at some point, often with mild symptoms, but in other cases with severe and potentially life-threatening diarrhea and dehydration. It causes tens of thousands of hospitalizations in the U.S. each year, and throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of child deaths.

The new vaccine was invented by three Philadelphia scientists: H. Fred Clark, D.V.M., Ph.D.; Paul A. Offit, M.D.; and Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D., all of whom led laboratory studies of the vaccine at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and The Wistar Institute between 1980 and 1991. Since 1991, the vaccine has been developed for commercial use by Merck, which conducted extensive clinical trials.

Dr. Offit is currently chief of Infectious Diseases, Maurice R. Hilleman Endowed Chair in Vaccinology, and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Clark is a research professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital. Dr. Plotkin, an emeritus professor at Wistar and a former director of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital, developed a number of previous vaccines, including
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Contact: Rachel Salis-Silverman
salis@email.chop.edu
267-426-6063
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
21-Feb-2006


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