Rotavirus Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

One of the Recommended Vaccines

At a Glance

Rotavirus spreads easily among infants and young children. The virus can cause severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Children who get rotavirus disease can become dehydrated and may need to be hospitalized.

CDC recommends that infants get rotavirus vaccine to protect against rotavirus disease. Two rotavirus vaccines are currently licensed for infants in the United States. Starting at 2 months old, infants should get two or three doses depending on the brand of rotavirus vaccine.

Who Should Get Rotavirus Vaccine?

Infants should get rotavirus vaccine to protect against rotavirus disease.

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

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

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

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

For more information, see About the Vaccine.

Who Should Not Get Rotavirus Vaccine?

Your healthcare provider is the best source of information on the benefits and risks of vaccines. Before your child receives any vaccine, discuss with your healthcare provider:

  • health problems that your child may have
  • medications that your child is currently taking
  • concerns you might have about vaccination

Infants should not get rotavirus vaccine if they have any of the following:

  • a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to an earlier dose of rotavirus vaccine
  • a severe (life threatening) allergy to any component of rotavirus vaccine. Tell your doctor if your baby has any severe allergies that you know of, including a severe allergy to latex
  • severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a condition in which a child’s immune system cannot fight infections
  • a previous episode of a type of bowel blockage called intussusception.

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

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 seven to eight 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).

What Are the Possible Side Effects of Rotavirus Vaccine?

Most babies who get rotavirus vaccine do not have any side effects. However, some babies can have side effects that are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious side effects are possible but rare.

Side effects or problems that have been associated with rotavirus vaccine include:

Mild problems

This can include being irritable or having mild, temporary diarrhea, or vomiting after getting a dose of rotavirus vaccine.

Serious problems

There is a small risk of intussusception, a type of bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital, that could require surgery. Intussusception happens in some babies every year in the United States, and usually there is no known reason for it. Intussusception from rotavirus vaccination usually occurs within a week of receiving a dose of vaccine. The risk of intussusception from rotavirus vaccination is estimated to range from about 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 US infants who get rotavirus vaccine. Your healthcare provider 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 less 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 Rotavirus Vaccine Safety web page.

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, polio vaccine, 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 a healthcare provider. 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 healthcare provider. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.

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