Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe diarrhea. Most also will experience vomiting and fever along with the diarrhea. It is most severe in babies and young children because they can easily become dehydrated.
Although Rotavirus is not the only cause of severe diarrhea it is one of the most serious. Each year in the United States rotavirus causes up to 70,000 hospitalizations and between 20 and 60 deaths as well as more than 400,000 doctor visits.
Almost all children in the United States will be exposed to and become infected by rotavirus before they are 5 years old.
Rotavirus vaccine is an oral vaccine, given in the mouth to swallow. It is not given by injection. It will not prevent all diarrhea or vomiting, but it is very good at preventing these symptoms when they are caused by rotavirus. The vaccine is about 98% effective in preventing severe rotavirus and about 74% of those getting the vaccine do not get rotavirus diarrhea at all.
The vaccine is routinely recommended to begin between 6 and 12 weeks of age. It is given as a 3 dose series:
1st Dose: 2 months of age
2nd Dose: 4 months of age
3rd Dose: 6 months of age
All 3 doses of the vaccine should be given before 32 weeks of age.
Some mild side effects can include temporary diarrhea or vomiting with in 7 days after getting the vaccine (only 1-3% of children are likely to experience this). Moderate or severe reactions have not been associated with this vaccine. Like all vaccines, the rotavirus vaccine will continue to be monitored for unusual or severe problems.