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Merck's competing rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq is made by a very different process, and FDA's testing showed no sign of the pig virus in it.
It's not the first time unwanted viruses have been discovered in vaccines. Best known is a monkey virus that contaminated some polio vaccine in the 1950s; years later, scientists investigated if the SV40 virus might have increased vaccine recipients' risk of later-in-life cancer but concluded it didn't.
"We live in a world that's teeming with microbes," Hamburg said, but until now this particular pig virus is not one that FDA thought vaccine makers needed to check their products against.
Parents should switch to the Merck vaccine for now -- it requires three doses instead of Glaxo's two -- because rotavirus is too serious a disease to ignore, said Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine specialist at Vanderbilt University who was briefed on FDA's decision.
He's bracing for calls from worried parents and will tell them that "this has been an extraordinarily safe vaccine," and that the discovery is "a consequence of our improved science and ability to detect things that we never could before."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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