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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.

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Children are most likely to get rotavirus disease in the winter and spring (December through June).

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 three doses of this vaccine—at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age.
  • Rotarix® has been used since 2008. Infants should receive two doses of this vaccine—at 2 months and 4 months of age.

Want to Know More About Rotavirus?

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The first dose of the rotavirus vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks of age. This first dose 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, in June 2013, new data was released showing a small increase in cases of intussusception from rotavirus vaccination. Intussusception is a bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital and may require surgery. These studies estimate a risk ranging from about 1 intussusception case in every 20,000 infants to 1 intussusception case in every 100,000 infants after vaccination. Intussusception would most likely happen during the first week after the first or second dose of rotavirus vaccine.​

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.

More Information


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  • Page last reviewed: December 16, 2013
  • Page last updated: December 16, 2013 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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