Childhood Diseases Vaccinations Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a virus that primarily affects babies and young children. It causes severe diarrhea, and can be accompanied by vomiting and fever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rotavirus is one of the most serious causes of diarrhea. Prior to development of a vaccine, rotavirus was the cause of as many as 70,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States.

About the Rotavirus Vaccines

A vaccine for rotavirus was developed in 1998, but was withdrawn the following year, because it was thought to be associated with a rare bowel obstruction called intussaception. In 2006, the world was still facing numerous hospitalizations and deaths due to rotavirus, and vaccine development was once again deemed necessary. The RotaTeq vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February 2006. A second vaccine for rotavirus, called Rotarix was released in 2008.

Both rotavirus vaccines are attenuated vaccines, meaning that weakened, live virus is present in the vaccine. This live virus is not enough to actually cause the rotavirus itself. Both vaccines are given orally, meaning they are swallowed.

Vaccine Schedule

It is recommended that all healthy infants get the vaccine for rotavirus on a regular vaccine schedule. Both rotavirus vaccines are given in a series of doses. The RotaTeq vaccine is given in three doses, at the ages of 2, 4 and 6 months. Rotarix is a series of two doses, administered at 2 and 4 months.

Though these are the ideal schedules, either vaccine can be started as early as 6 weeks or as late as 14 weeks, 6 days of age. Doctors don’t recommend that rotavirus vaccines begin past the 15th week of age. Doses of rotavirus vaccines must be four weeks apart. The entire series of vaccines, including the RotaTeq vaccine, should be completed by 8 months of age.

Who Should Not Get the Vaccine

Although there are major benefits to receiving the vaccine for rotavirus, there are some who shouldn’t complete this part of the typical vaccine schedule. Any infant who has experienced severe reactions to a dose of either vaccine for rotavirus shouldn’t receive another. Babies who who have a known severe allergy to any ingredient in the vaccine shouldn’t receive the Rotarix or RotaTeq vaccine.

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns regarding any of your baby’s allergies, including a latex allergy. Infants who are moderately to severely ill should also not receive the vaccine. Schedule vaccination for a later date when your baby is better. A child with a mild illness can be vaccinated on schedule. Ask your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned.

Side Effects

Like any medication, it is possible to experience side effects from the rotavirus vaccines. Mild side effects may include irritability, slight vomiting or diarrhea after taking the vaccine. Be sure to inform your doctor if serious reactions should occur, such as difficulty breathing, weakness or hives. Most babies experience little or no reaction to the rotavirus vaccines.




Rotavirus Vaccine Program Staff. (n.d.). Rotavirus facts. Retrieved January 12, 2010, from the Rotavirus Vaccine Program Web site:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2009). Rotavirus vaccine: Questions