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Facts About...

Rotavirus Vaccine

What is it?

Rotavirus vaccine (Rotarix™) is a vaccine for infants given in liquid form by mouth. This vaccine protects against Rotavirus, a common infection that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Infants and young children in child care centres and children’s hospitals are most often infected. Rotavirus infection is a major cause of doctor visits and hospital stays for children under five years of age. (For more information on Rotavirus see Facts About... Rotavirus.)

How effective is Rotavirus vaccine?

When a 2-dose series is completed, rotavirus vaccine has an 85-98% rate of effectiveness against severe diarrhea. Infants and children should receive the 2-dose series. However, limited studies on effectiveness of incomplete vaccine series (only 1 dose) in infants suggests vaccination during rotavirus season may provide early protection against severe Rotavirus.

What are the benefits?

Since June 2011, rotavirus vaccine has become part of the national childhood immunization programs of many countries. Because of this introduction, there has been an 85% reduction in number of infants and children visiting the emergency department or needing hospitalization for rotavirus disease in those countries.

Who should receive the vaccine?

In Ontario, rotavirus vaccines are publicly funded (free) for healthy infants starting at 6 weeks to 14 weeks of age. The vaccination series should be completed before 8 months of age. Babies who have had rotavirus infection before getting the vaccine should still complete the 2-dose series because the first infection usually only provides partial protection.

What is the schedule for the vaccine?

Two doses of rotavirus vaccine (Rotarix™) are recommended for infants. A dose should be given at 2 and 4 months of age. The first dose must be given prior to 15 weeks of age and the second dose given by 8 months of age. Rotavirus vaccine can be given with all routine infant vaccines.

Are there side effects with the vaccine?

Most babies who get the rotavirus vaccine do not have any complications. Your child may become irritable or have mild, temporary diarrhea after getting a dose. Rarely babies may experience an allergic reaction such as itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue. Severe allergic reactions after vaccination are rare and may include a slight increased risk of bowel obstruction (intussesception).

If you think you are having a serious reaction seek medical attention right away. Serious reactions and any changes in your health or your child’s health after vaccination should be reported as soon as possible to your health care provider and the Health Department.

The vaccine form of the rotavirus can be found in the stool or feces of infants for up to 10 days after they have received their vaccination, and can infect people who are not immunized. To prevent the spread of the virus, wash your hands carefully after contact with the vaccinated infant, especially after changing a diaper.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Infants who have:

  • allergy to the vaccine or any of its components
  • anaphylaxis after previous administration of the vaccine
  • a history of intussusception (bowel obstruction)
  • Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease (SCID)
  • have uncorrected congenital abdominal disorders (such as Mechel’s diverticulum)
  • received blood products including immunoglobulin within 42 days
  • immune system problems, talk to your health care provider to see if they can get the vaccine
  • moderate-to-severe gastroenteritis, vaccine should be deferred until the condition improves

Don’t forget to update your record of protection.

After you or your child receives a vaccination, update your yellow vaccination record. For children in school or daycare, please call the Health Department to update your child's immunization records. Keep your records in a safe place!


August 30, 2016