ATLANTA – A federal advisory panel has endorsed a second vaccine to combat a common and potentially fatal virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting in children.
The new two-dose vaccine for infants, made by GlaxoSmithKline, was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in April. The vaccine advisory committee agreed Wednesday that it should be added to the recommended vaccines for infants, as well as the three-dose vaccine made by Merck & Co. and approved in 2006.
Both vaccines are given orally to prevent rotavirus, which causes 67,000 hospitalizations of children under 5 each year in the U.S., but only about 30 deaths. Worldwide, it kills an estimated 500,000 children a year.
Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and children, but is perhaps better known as the cause of vomiting that often strikes children in the winter.
The vaccine advisory panel's recommendations typically are adopted by the government, which issues vaccination guidelines to doctors and hospitals.
The committee voiced no preference for one vaccine over the other.
The new two-dose version can be completed in four months, compared to six months for the older version. Both are estimated to cost about $200. Government endorsement of a vaccine often means insurance companies will pay for it.
Wide use of the older vaccine is credited with reducing the severity of rotavirus over the past year.
The virus follows a pattern similar to flu season, but the 2007-08 season was the mildest in 15 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.