Rotavirus infects 100 percent of children by age 5. That’s a stunning figure. Rotavirus causes prolific watery diarrhea and often is accompanied by fever and vomiting. It has been one of the leading causes of hospitalization and death from diarrhea in infants worldwide. Strong motivation to make a vaccine!
In the 1990s the first generation rotavirus vaccine was released: RotaShield. That vaccine though was associated with a slight increased risk of developing an intestinal obstruction called intussusception. NOT GOOD. The vaccine was pulled from the market and it was many years before another vaccine was approved to protect against this infectious diarrhea.
As you might expect the process for approval was more intense the second time around and two vaccines were approved: RotaTeq and RotaRix. Both vaccines have undergone a lot of post-approval scrutiny and study to examine their safety. Recently a study published in JAMA examined the outcomes of 800,000 infants who received the RotaTeq vaccine and found that intussusception was no more likely in infants who received the vaccine than those who did not.
Neither vaccine prevents illness from all strains of rotavirus but they do target the strains that are most likely to cause severe illness. Given the reassuring safety profile and the fact the vaccine has been used now for more than five years without a higher rate of bowel obstruction seen, it really makes sense to give your infant this vaccine.
Rotavirus vaccines are one of the few time sensitive vaccines. If not begun by 13 weeks, 6 days of age, it cannot ever be given. RotaTeq is a 3 dose vaccine typically given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age and RotaRix is given twice at 2 and 4 months.
Delaying this vaccine can preclude protection forever so be ready to talk to your healthcare provider at your baby’s 2 month well visit about this important and safe vaccine.