On rotavirus and Paul Offit

There has been a rotavirus outbreak in Durban. So far, over 1000 children have been infected and 2 have died.
There are several different vaccinations against rotavirus. Rotarix is the one used in South Africa. Another one, RotaTeq, was co-created by a man regarded by many antivaxxers as the antichrist: Paul Offit. Offit was motivated to work on RotaTeq after seeing a rotavirus-infected child die. Its development took 25 years. He was also a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the committee which decides on which vaccines to add to the schedule, amongst other things.
Two of the biggest lies antivaxxers tell about Offit are that:

  • He voted to put the vaccine he co-created on the schedule, and;
  • He received a Congressional Reprimand for doing so.
  • I will deal with the second lie first. A Congressional Reprimand is a punishment inflicted by the US Congress on misbehaving Congressmen. Offit is not, and has never been, a Congressman. An individual who is not a Congressman can not possibly receive a Congressional Reprimand. What actually happened is that Dan Burton, a Congressman and known antivaccinationist, said some nasty things about Offit. This was then distorted into a “Congressional Reprimand” by mendacious antivaxxers.
    As for the first lie, RotaShield, a competing vaccine, was put forward for consideration to be added to the vaccine schedule. Offit voted to add it to the schedule. However, Wyeth withdrew it after monitoring showed a possible an increased risk of intussuception and it was withdrawn from the schedule. When RotaTeq was put forward for consideration, Offit recused himself to avoid the conflict of interest. This is all a matter of public record.
    So, to summarise, Paul Offit:

  • Voted for RotaShield, a competing vaccine to RotaTeq, to be added to the schedule;
  • Recused himself when the decision to withdraw RotaShield was put to the vote, and;
  • Recused himself when the decision to add RotaTeq to the schedule was put to the vote.
  • Despite this, I still see antivaxxers repeat the lie that he put his own vaccine on the schedule and that he faced a Congressional Reprimand for it.
    It has been estimated that rotavirus causes 453 000 deaths and 2 million hospitalisations annually. The worldwide use of rotavirus vaccines would prevent 45% of those (approximately 228 000 deaths a year). For creating a vaccine that has saved thousands, Offit is a hero.


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    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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