Rotavirus vaccine

An oral vaccine against rotavirus infection, a common cause of diarrhoea and sickness, is given as two doses for babies aged 8 and 12 weeks, alongside their other routine childhood vaccinations.

The vaccine is given as a liquid from a dropper straight into the baby’s mouth for them to swallow.

Rotavirus is a highly infectious stomach bug that typically strikes babies and young children, causing an unpleasant bout of diarrhoea, sometimes with vomiting, tummy ache and fever. Most children recover at home within a few days, but nearly one in five will need to see their doctor, and one in 10 of these end up in hospital as a result of complications such as extreme dehydration. A very small number of children die from rotavirus infection each year.

Since its introduction into the vaccination programme, the rotavirus vaccine has prevented more than 70% of cases.

The brand name of the rotavirus vaccine used in the UK is Rotarix.

Read the patient information leaflet (PIL) for Rotarix.

Which babies can have the rotavirus vaccination?

Rotavirus vaccination is available routinely on the NHS as part of the childhood vaccination programme for babies aged 8 weeks and 12 weeks.

Read more about which babies can have the rotavirus vaccination.

How does the rotavirus vaccine work?

Some of the rotavirus is in the vaccine and this helps your baby to build up immunity, so that the next time they come into contact with rotavirus they will not get the disease. The rotavirus in the vaccine is weakened, so your baby won’t get rotavirus disease just from having the vaccination.

How effective is the rotavirus vaccine?

The rotavirus vaccine is very effective and gives good immunity to rotavirus infection. Since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in 2013, cases are down by 69%.

The vaccine is given routinely to children in the US and many other countries around the world in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

How safe is the rotavirus vaccine?

There is lots of evidence showing that rotavirus vaccine is safe. Rotarix has been extensively used in many countries, including Belgium, Finland, Austria and Canada for four to five years, and no safety concerns have been raised.

What are the side effects of the rotavirus vaccine?

The vast majority of babies won’t have any problems at all after having their rotavirus vaccination, although some babies who have the vaccine may become restless and irritable, and some may develop mild diarrhoea.

It is possible for a baby to get rotavirus infection after being vaccinated – but it's usually milder than it would have been if they hadn’t been vaccinated. They can also get a positive rotavirus test after being vaccinated, but this does not usually last for very long – your doctor will not be able to tell whether the positive test is due to the vaccine or the natural infection.

Read more about rotavirus vaccine side effects.

Read the answers to some of the common questions that parents have about the rotavirus vaccine.

Page last reviewed: 16/04/2015

Next review due: 19/03/2017


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