Rotavirus is the most common cause of serious diarrhea in babies and young children. It usually affects children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. Without vaccine, almost all children will have at least one episode of rotavirus diarrhea before they turn 5 years old.
What is the rotavirus vaccine?
There are two rotavirus vaccines available in Canada. They are available under these brand names: Rotarix (RV1) and RotaTeq (RV5). Both vaccines are effective.
Who should get this vaccine?
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that all babies between 6 weeks and 32 weeks (8 months) of age get the vaccine.
Who should NOT get the vaccine?
A baby with a serious immune system disorder should not get the vaccine because it is a live vaccine and it could make them sick.
A baby who has had intussusception (a type of bowel blockage) should not get the vaccine as there is concern that it might cause a recurrence of blockage.
If your child has a weakened immune system or a bowel problem and you are unsure about the vaccine, ask your baby’s doctor.
A baby who had a serious allergic reaction (such as trouble breathing or hives) to a previous dose of rotavirus vaccine should not get the vaccine again.
A baby with moderate or severe illness should not get the vaccine until the condition improves. If your baby has a minor illness, with or without a fever, he should still get the vaccine.
When should my child receive the vaccine?
The vaccines are usually given with other baby vaccines, but can be given as early as 6 weeks. Babies should receive the first dose before 15 weeks but sometimes it is given as late as 20 weeks of age. All doses need to be completed by 8 months (32 weeks) of age.
How is the vaccine given?
It is given in liquid form by mouth. Your child will need 2 doses of Rotarix or 3 doses of RotaTeq. Doses are given at least 4 weeks apart.
How safe is the rotavirus vaccine?
This vaccine is very safe. There is a small increased risk of intussusception (bowel blockage) especially in the first week after receiving the vaccine. Parents should return to the doctor if the child is not well. No other serious adverse events have been noted.
Where can I get the vaccine for my child?
Talk to your doctor about the vaccine. It’s not covered by all provincial/territorial health plans, which means you may have to pay for it.