Rotavirus, and Paul Offit gets due recognition

I was going to write about influenza today, but a piece of news caught my eye. Oh well, October isn’t over yet.
Rotavirus is a genus of double-stranded viruses in the reoviridae family. There are five species: A, B, C, D, and E. Rotavirus A is the most common, and accounts for over 90% of Rotavirus infections in humans. Worldwide, it is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in infants and young children. Each year, it kills half a million children under the age of five years and harms almost 2 million more.
There are two oral vaccines currently used against Rotavirus: Rotarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline; and RotaTeq, made by Merck. Paul Offit, a paediatrician who works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is an expert on vaccinations, the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, a co-creator of RotaTeq (with Fred Clark and Stanley Plotkin), and a man hated by anti-vaxxers.
In 2008, Offit wrote a book “Autism’s False Prophets“, which attacked the now-discredited claim that Autism was caused by vaccination. He has faced hate mail and death threats, and at one point was even given a police escort to ensure his safety. Some anti-vaxxers have libellously claimed that Offit voted RotaTeq onto the Vaccine Schedule. This is demonstrably false. Offit voted for an earlier vaccine to be placed on the schedule (which had to be withdrawn after being blamed, probably wrongly, for causing intussusception) and recused himself when RotaTeq was placed before the committee. In addition, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the lawyer responsible for the dishonest article “Deadly Immunity” (retracted by Salon.com) has called Offit a “biostitute”.
RotaTeq is pentavalent (it protects against all five rotavirus strains) and in trials showed no more adverse effects than a placebo. It was approved for use in February 2006 and is believed to have saved literally hundreds of lives each day of its use.
The news story to which I referred at the start of this post? A few days ago, Offit received a high honour. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine.
Congratulations, Paul Offit.

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About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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