Protect Your Child from Rotavirus Disease
Rotavirus can cause severe watery diarrhea in infants and young children. They usually have fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain too. Some children with rotavirus cannot drink enough liquids to replace the fluids lost from having diarrhea or throwing up many times a day. This can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization, and even death.
Rotavirus spreads easily among young children. People who get rotavirus disease shed large amounts of the virus in their feces (stool). If you get rotavirus in your mouth, you can get sick with rotavirus disease. This happens when you touch the hands of other people or objects (such as toys) that have rotavirus on them.
Before the vaccines were available in the United States, rotavirus was responsible for more than 200,000 emergency room visits and 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations of young children each year. Also, 20 to 60 children died each year.
Rotavirus Vaccine Protection
Two rotavirus vaccines are available: Rotateq® and Rotarix®. Both vaccines are given by mouth. They are 85 to 95 percent effective at preventing severe rotavirus disease in infants and young children.
- Rotateq® has been used since 2006. Infants should receive 3 doses of this vaccine—at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age.
- Rotarix® has been used since 2008. Infants should receive 2 doses of this vaccine—at 2 months and 4 months of age.
The first dose of the rotavirus vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks of age. It needs to be given before 15 weeks of age to be most effective.
Children should receive all doses of rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months old.
Millions of babies in the United States have gotten rotavirus vaccine safely. However, studies in Australia and Mexico have shown a small rise in cases of intussusception within a week after the first dose of rotavirus vaccine. Intussusception is a bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital and may require surgery. So far in the United States, intussusception has not been confirmed as a side effect for rotavirus vaccine. But, the level of intussusception risk seen in Australia and Mexico cannot be ruled out in the United States. If that level of risk were to exist in the United States, an estimated 1 to 3 infants out of 100,000 might develop intussusception due to rotavirus vaccination.
Paying for Rotavirus Vaccines
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. But, you may want to check with your health insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have insurance, or if it does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps eligible children get the vaccines they need. The vaccines are provided at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children. Find out if your child is eligible.
- Learn more about rotavirus disease
- Rotavirus fact sheet for parents [PDF - 401KB]
- Rotavirus disease [PDF - 463KB] - a true story about 10-month-old twin boys who had severe illness caused by rotavirus
- Learn more about rotavirus vaccines
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration Information for Parents and Caregivers about rotavirus vaccines
- Vaccines for Children Program Brief Answers to Common Questions
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