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Rotavirus vaccine overview

An oral vaccine against rotavirus infection is given to babies as part of their routine childhood vaccinations.

The vaccine is given as 2 doses, 4 weeks apart. Usually the first dose is given at 8 weeks, and the second dose at 12 weeks.

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

Find out more about NHS vaccinations and when to have them.

Why the rotavirus vaccine is offered

Rotavirus is a highly infectious stomach bug that typically affects babies and young children, causing diarrhoea and vomiting, tummy ache and a high temperature.

Most children recover at home within a week. But some children may need to see a doctor.

Occasionally, treatment in hospital is needed for complications such as severe dehydration.

When 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.

Your baby needs 2 rotavirus vaccinations at least 4 weeks apart to be fully protected.

If they miss the 1st dose, they can have it at up to 15 weeks. If they miss the 2nd dose, they can have it at up to 24 weeks.

How the rotavirus vaccine works

The vaccine contains a weakened version of rotavirus.

This helps your baby build up immunity, so that the next time they come into contact with rotavirus they will not get the infection.

Effectiveness of the rotavirus vaccine

The rotavirus vaccine is very effective and gives good protection against rotavirus infection.

It’s possible for a baby to get a rotavirus infection after being vaccinated. But this is uncommon and it’s usually milder than it would have been if they had not been vaccinated.

Since its introduction into the vaccination programme, the rotavirus vaccine has significantly reduced the number of children who have diarrhoea and vomiting, and reduced the number of severe rotavirus infections.

It’s not known exactly how long it lasts, but research has shown that 2 doses of the vaccine can protect a child for several years.

Safety of the rotavirus vaccine

There's a lot of evidence showing that the rotavirus vaccine is safe.

The brand name of the vaccine used in the UK is Rotarix. This vaccine has been used in many countries for more than 10 years.

It’s given routinely to children in the US and many other countries around the world in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Read the patient information leaflet (PIL) for Rotarix on the electronic medicines compendium website

Side effects of the rotavirus vaccine

Most babies do not have any problems at all after having their rotavirus vaccination.

Some babies who have the vaccine may become restless and irritable, and some may develop mild diarrhoea in the days following vaccination.

Very rarely, the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or a blockage in a baby’s intestine (intussusception).

More information about the rotavirus vaccine

Page last reviewed: 16 April 2020
Next review due: 16 April 2023