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Rotavirus vaccine

Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Mar 20, 2023


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. The vaccine contains a weakened form of rotavirus that does not cause disease.

Who should get the rotavirus vaccine?

  • The rotavirus vaccine is given to babies starting at 2 months of age.
  • The vaccine is given as a series of 2 doses. The first dose is given at 2 months of age, the second at 4 months.
  • The vaccine is provided free as part of your child’s routine immunizations. 
  • The vaccine is 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 rotavirus 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 immunized, 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 diarrhea, crankiness, stomach pain, gas, or an itchy rash 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 the rotavirus vaccine. The risk of intussusception 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 (tummy), frequent vomiting, and bloody stools (poops). 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 an extremely rare possibility of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips. The chance of true anaphylaxis is about 1 in 1 million vaccine doses. 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. Learn more about anaphylaxis on our vaccine side effects page.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider

Who should not get the rotavirus vaccine?

Talk to your health care provider if your baby:
  • Has had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of rotavirus vaccine or any component of the vaccine.
  • Has an immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment.
  • There is a family history of weakened immune systems.
  • Had intussusception or has an intestinal disorder that may result in intussusception.
  • Babies who have moderate or severe diarrhea or vomiting or a serious illness should not be immunized until they have recovered from their illness.
There is no need to delay getting immunized because of a cold or other mild illness. However, if you have concerns, speak with your health care provider.


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 when handling diapers.
  • Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea and hospitalization for diarrhea in children under 5 years of age.
  • Almost all unimmunized 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.

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.


Learn more


Rotavirus vaccine with Dr. Ran Goldman