Intussusception (IS) is a form of bowel obstruction, occurring in around 200 Australian infants annually, where (usually) a distal segment of the bowel invaginates into a proximal segment, potentially requiring surgery.
The TGA have confirmed an increased risk of IS following rotavirus vaccination which translates to around 14 additional cases per year. 50% of these occur within a week of the first dose of vaccine, 30% over the next two weeks, and the remainder in the week following the second dose.
Rotavirus gastroenteritis caused 10,000 hospitalisations annually in Australian children under 5 years before the vaccine was included on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) in 2007, and has subsequently reduced by over 70%.
Considering the balance of risk and benefit, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) have reaffirmed the value of rotavirus vaccination.
Parents should be aware of the signs of intussusception, and should consider referral to an emergency department if a pallid child is distressed by recurring episodes of colicky abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bloody stools, abdominal bloating and/or high fever.