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Rotavirus Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

One of the Recommended Vaccines by Disease


At a Glance

CDC recommends that infants get rotavirus vaccine toprotect against rotavirus disease. Two types of rotavirus vaccines are currently licensed for use in infants in the United States.

  • RotaTeq® (RV5) has been approved for use since 2006, and is given in three doses, one dose at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age.
  • Rotarix® (RV1) has been approved for use since 2008, and is given in two doses, one dose at 2 months and 4 months of age.

This first dose of either vaccine should be given before a child is 15 weeks of age. Also, infants should receive all doses of rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months old. Both vaccines are given by putting drops in the infant’s mouth.

Who Should Get Rotavirus Vaccine?

Rotavirus vaccine protects infants from rotavirus illness that can involve severe diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Your baby will get either two or three doses, depending on which rotavirus vaccine is used.

There are two rotavirus vaccines licensed for use in infants in the United States:

  • RotaTeq® (RV5), which is given in three doses, one dose at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age
  • Rotarix® (RV1), which is given in two doses, one dose at 2 months and 4 months of age

This first dose of rotavirus vaccine should be given before a baby is 15 weeks of age. Vaccination should not be started for infants older than 15 weeks because there is not enough vaccine safety information for children who start vaccination older than 15 weeks. Also, infants should receive all doses of rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months of age.

Both vaccines are only given by putting drops in the baby’s mouth.

Your baby’s doctor can help you choose which rotavirus vaccine to use.

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Who Should Not Get Rotavirus Vaccine?

Your health care provider is the best source of information on the benefits and risks of vaccines. Before your child receives any vaccine, discuss with your health care provider any health problems that your child may have and any medications that your child is currently taking. Also, discuss any concerns you might have about vaccination.

Infants should not get rotavirus vaccine in these situations:

  • An infant who has had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a dose of rotavirus vaccine should not get another dose.
  • An infant who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any component of rotavirus vaccine should not get the vaccine. Tell your doctor if your baby has any severe allergies that you know of, including a severe allergy to latex.
  • Infants with "severe combined immunodeficiency" (SCID) should not get rotavirus vaccine.
  • Infants who have had a type of bowel blockage called "intussusception" should not get rotavirus vaccine.
  • Infants who are moderately or severely ill should wait to get the vaccine until they recover. This includes infants with moderate or severe diarrhea or vomiting. Babies who are mildly ill can get the vaccine.

Check with your doctor before vaccinating if your baby’s immune system is weakened because of:

  • HIV/AIDS, or any other disease that affects the immune system
  • Treatment with drugs such as steroids
  • Cancer, or cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs

This information was taken directly from the Rotavirus Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) dated 04/15/2015.

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What Are the Names of the Rotavirus Vaccines?

Two rotavirus vaccines are currently licensed for use in infants in the United States:

  • RotaTeq® (RV5)
    • It was approved for use in 2006 for use in infants
    • It is given in three doses at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age
  • Rotarix® (RV1)
    • It is approved for use in 2008 for use in infants
    • It is given in two doses at 2 months and 4 months of age

Both vaccines given by putting drops in the infant’s mouth.

Your baby’s doctor can help you choose which rotavirus vaccine to use. Rotavirus vaccine can be safely administered with other vaccines given at the same age.

For more information, see About the Vaccine.


How Well Does Rotavirus Vaccine Work?

Both rotavirus vaccines (Rotarix® and RotaTeq®) were tested in large clinical trials that involved thousands of infants, and were found to be safe and effective. About 9 out of 10 children who get the vaccine will be protected from severe rotavirus illness (fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in behavior). While about 7 to 8 out of 10 children will be completely protected from rotavirus illness.

Before a vaccine was available many children who became ill with rotavirus were hospitalized. Currently, very few vaccinated children are hospitalized because of rotavirus illness (94% to 96% are protected from hospitalization).

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What Are the Possible Side Effects of Rotavirus Vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, can have side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious side effects are also possible but rare.

Most babies who get rotavirus vaccine do not have any side effects. However, there are some side effects or problems that have been associated with rotavirus vaccine:

Mild problems following rotavirus vaccine:

  • Babies might become irritable, or have mild, temporary diarrhea or vomiting after getting a dose of rotavirus vaccine.

Serious problems following rotavirus vaccine:

  • Intussusception is a type of bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital, and could require surgery. It happens "naturally" in some babies every year in the United States, and usually there is no known reason for it.

There is also a small risk of intussusception from rotavirus vaccination, usually within a week after the 1st or 2nd vaccine dose. This additional risk is estimated to range from about 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 US infants who get rotavirus vaccine. Your doctor can give you more information.

Problems that could happen after any vaccine:

  • Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at fewer than 1 in a million doses, and usually happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.

The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit CDC’s Vaccine Safety site.

This information was taken directly from the Rotavirus Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) dated 04/15/2015.

For more information on intussusception, visit Questions & Answers about Intussusception and Rotavirus Vaccine.


Can the Vaccine Be Given with Other Vaccines?

Rotavirus vaccine can be safely given during the same doctor’s visit with DTaP vaccine, Hib vaccine, IPV, hepatitis B vaccine, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.


How Can Parents Pay for Rotavirus Vaccine?

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. However, you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child's doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.


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