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Rotavirus vaccine

The rotavirus vaccine helps protect against rotavirus, a common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting. It's given to babies when they're 8 and 12 weeks old.

What the rotavirus vaccine is for

Rotavirus is an infection that causes diarrhoea and vomiting. It's very common, especially in babies and young children.

Most children with rotavirus will get better in a few days, but some children can become very dehydrated and need treatment in hospital. Very rarely, rotavirus can be life-threatening.

Rotavirus spreads very easily. Vaccination is recommended for babies to help stop them getting infected.

When babies should have the rotavirus vaccine

Babies are given 2 doses of the rotavirus vaccine as part of the NHS vaccination schedule.

They are given the vaccine at:

  • 8 weeks old
  • 12 weeks old

If your baby has missed their rotavirus vaccinations, contact their GP surgery.

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

Babies who cannot have the rotavirus vaccine

Most babies who are eligible for the rotavirus vaccine can have it.

Your baby cannot have the vaccine if:

  • they've had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine
  • they have a rare condition that affects the immune system called severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)
  • they've had a bowel blockage (called intussusception) in the past or have a problem with their bowel that means they're at higher risk of intussusception
  • they have rare conditions called fructose intolerance, glucose-galactose malabsorption or sucrase-isomaltase insufficiency
  • their mother took medicines called biological medicines (which weaken the immune system) while pregnant or breastfeeding

Speak to your GP surgery if you're not sure if your baby can have the rotavirus vaccine.


Getting vaccinated if your baby is unwell

If your baby has a high temperature, diarrhoea or vomiting, wait until they're feeling better before having the vaccine.

Rotavirus vaccine ingredients

There is 1 type of rotavirus vaccine used in the UK. You can check the ingredients in the patient leaflet:

Rotarix vaccine patient leaflet (Electronic Medicines Compendium website; PDF only, 370KB)

How to get the rotavirus vaccine

Your GP surgery will usually contact you about your baby's rotavirus vaccinations. This will usually be by letter, text, phone call or email.

It's best to have the vaccinations on time, but your baby can still have the rotavirus vaccine up to 15 weeks old (for the 1st dose) or 24 weeks (for the 2nd dose).

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP surgery if:

  • you have not been contacted to get your baby's rotavirus vaccinations
  • your baby has missed their rotavirus vaccinations, or you're not sure if they've had both doses of the vaccine
  • your baby is unwell and is due to have the vaccine – they may need to wait until they're feeling better before having the vaccine
  • you need to change a vaccination appointment

Your GP surgery can book or rearrange an appointment.

How the rotavirus vaccine is given

The rotavirus vaccine is given as a liquid that's squirted into your baby's mouth.

If your baby spits out or brings up the liquid straight away, they'll be given another dose.

After the vaccination

Your baby can feed as normal and do their usual activities (including swimming) after having the vaccine.

For a few weeks after being vaccinated, your baby's poo may contain a weakened version of rotavirus.

Although the risk of getting ill from this is very small, it's a good idea to keep washing your hands regularly (especially after changing your baby's nappy).


Having the rotavirus vaccine at the same time as other vaccines

Your baby can have the rotavirus vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.

Side effects of the rotavirus vaccine

Like all medicines, the rotavirus vaccine can cause side effects, but not all babies get them.

Common side effects

The most common side effects of the rotavirus vaccine are:

  • diarrhoea
  • being irritable

Some babies may also have other side effects such as:

  • being sick (vomiting)
  • a rash
  • a high temperature
  • loss of appetite

Rare side effects

More serious side effects, such as a severe allergic reaction, are very rare. The person who vaccinates your child will be trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

There is also a very small risk of a serious problem when the bowel becomes blocked (intussusception) in the week after being vaccinated.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call NHS 111 if your baby:

  • keeps being sick
  • has blood in their poo, or their poo looks like redcurrant jelly
  • has a swollen or painful tummy
  • stops feeding
  • has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
  • is under 3 months old and has a temperature of 38C or higher (or you think they have a high temperature)
  • is 3 to 6 months old and has a temperature of 39C or higher (or you think they have a high temperature)
  • has diarrhoea for more than 7 days

These could be signs of an infection or a blocked bowel.

If you're worried about your baby, it's best to trust your instincts and contact your GP surgery or call 111 for advice.

How well the rotavirus vaccine works

The rotavirus vaccine works very well at stopping babies getting infected by rotavirus.

It prevents rotavirus infections in about 8 out of every 10 babies who have it.

The vaccine does not protect against diarrhoea and vomiting caused by other illnesses, such as norovirus.

Page last reviewed: 13 December 2023
Next review due: 13 December 2026