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: RotaTeq (RV5) and Rotarix (RV1). 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 might cause diarrhea.
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. Babies born with certain forms of gastrointestinal malformation that make them more likely to get intussusception should also not get the vaccine.
If your child has a weakened immune system or a gastrointestinal malformation 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 should not get the vaccine again.
A baby with moderate or severe diarrhea should not get the vaccine until the condition improves, as the vaccine may not work. If your baby has a minor cold or has a fever, he can 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 must receive the first dose before 20 weeks of age. All doses need to be given by 8 months (32 weeks) of age.
How is the vaccine given?
It is given in liquid form by mouth. Your child will need 3 doses of RotaTeq, or 2 doses of Rotarix. Doses are given at least 4 weeks apart.
How safe is the rotavirus vaccine?
This vaccine is very safe. Side effects don’t happen often. Mild diarrhea or vomiting were noted in one study but not others. Very rare cases of intussusception have been reported.
Where can I get the vaccine for my child?
Talk to your doctor about the vaccine. It’s not covered by all provincial or territorial health plans, which means you may have to pay for it.