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Find information in different languages in the HealthLinkBC File: Rotavirus Vaccine (RotaTeq®) and the HealthLinkBC File: Rotavirus Vaccine (Rotarix®).

What is the rotavirus vaccine?

The rotavirus vaccine helps protect babies against diarrhea and vomiting caused by rotavirus. It does not protect against diarrhea and vomiting caused by other viruses. 

Who should get the rotavirus vaccine?

Did you know?

Approximately 1 in 5 cases of all severe childhood diarrhea and vomiting are caused by rotavirus. Almost all Canadian children will be infected with rotavirus at least once by 5 years of age.

  • The rotavirus vaccine is given to babies starting at 2 months of age.
  • There are two different rotavirus vaccines currently used in B.C., RotaTeq® and Rotarix®.
  • RotaTeq®  is given as a series of 3 doses. The first dose is given at 2 months of age, the second at 4 months, and the third at 6 months.
  • Rotarix® is given as a series of 2 doses. The first dose is given at 2 months of age, the second at 4 months.
  • The vaccines are provided free as part of your child’s routine immunizations.  
  • The vaccines are given by mouth. A few drops of the liquid vaccine are placed into your baby's mouth to swallow.
  • It is important that your baby gets the rotavirus vaccine on time. The first dose of the vaccine must be given before 20 weeks of age, and the vaccine series must be completed by 8 months of age.  
  • The virus from the vaccine may be found in your baby’s stool for at least 10 days after immunization. Parents and caregivers should wash their hands thoroughly after changing diapers.

What are the benefits of the vaccine?

The vaccine prevents more than 3 out of 4 cases of rotavirus disease, and almost all severe cases, including hospitalizations. When you get your child vaccinated, you help protect others as well.

What are the side effects?

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get a rotavirus infection.

Most babies do not have any reactions after they get the rotavirus vaccine. Some may have a fever or experience diarrhea, vomiting, and crankiness after immunization.

In some countries outside of Canada, a very rare risk of intussusception (a blockage of the intestine) has been seen in the week after the first dose of rotavirus vaccine. The risk of intussuception is about 1 to 2 cases for every 100,000 babies that get the vaccine. At most, this could affect 1 baby a year in B.C. By comparison, each year in B.C., about 1 in 4,000 children under the age of 1 get intussusception without having received the vaccine.

Signs of intussusception may include a swollen abdomen, frequent vomiting, and bloody stools. Your baby could seem weak and irritable and have several bouts of intense crying. If your baby shows these signs, you should take your baby to the nearest emergency department.

It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a very rare possibility, between one in 100,000 and one in a million, of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider

Where can I learn more?

Rotavirus vaccine with Dr. Ran Goldman

About rotavirus

  • Rotavirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis, sometimes called the stomach flu.
  • Rotavirus is easily spread through contact with the stools of an infected child, such as the handling of diapers.
  • Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea and hospitalization for diarrhea in children under 5 years of age.
  • Almost all children will have at least one rotavirus infection before they are 5 years of age.
  • The first symptoms of rotavirus infection are usually fever and vomiting, followed by diarrhea and stomach pain. These symptoms appear 1 to 3 days after a person has been infected with the virus. Diarrhea can last from 4 to 8 days.
  • Severe and frequent diarrhea and/or vomiting can lead to dehydration in young children, and this may result in death if not treated.
Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Apr 06, 2020