Rotavirus Vaccine

Jagdish Kathwate
MD Pediatrics.
Assistant Professor,
Government Medical College,
Aurangabad, India.

First Created: 01/10/2007  Last Updated: 01/10/2014

Patient Education

What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus gets its name from the fact that, under a microscope, the virus resembles a wheel. This nasty, potentially lethal bug causes severe acute gastroenteritis with diarrhea and vomiting, primarily in infants and young children. Fortunately, there are two rotavirus vaccines that can protect children from this disease.

How Big a Problem Is Rotavirus Infection?

Worldwide, it is the leading cause of severe diarrhea among young children, leading to 2 million hospitalizations and more than 500,000 deaths of children ages 5 and under annually. Older children and adults can also be infected with the virus, but the illness is generally milder. Rotavirus disease is highly contagious. The germ is present in the stool of an infected person and can remain viable for a long time on contaminated surfaces, including people's hands. Children catch it by touching something that's contaminated and then putting their hands in their mouths. The spread of rotavirus infection is a particular problem in hospitals and in daycare settings, where it can be easily spread from child to child. It's also easily spread by daycare workers, especially when they change diapers without washing their hands afterward.

What are Symptoms of rotavirus infection?

Symptoms of rotavirus infection may last up to eight days, include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and frequent, watery diarrhea. If it's severe enough, diarrhea can cause dehydration, and it's the dehydration that's responsible for the hospitalizations and deaths associated with this disease.

How Is the Rotavirus Vaccine Given?

There are two brands of the rotavirus vaccine -- RotaTeq (RV5) and Rotarix (RV1). Both vaccines are given orally, not as a shot. The only difference is the number of doses that need to be given.

With RotaTeq, three doses are required. They should be given at ages 6, 10 and 14 weeks. Rotarix only requires two doses -- at 10 weeks and 14 weeks.

The vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines, and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the rotavirus vaccine be included as part of the routine immunizations given to infants.

India has developed its first vaccine Rotavac under the public-private partnership. The indigenous low-cost vaccine, to prevent rotavirus diarrhea that claims the lives of about 1 lakh children a year, will soon hit the market. Priced at around Rs 54 ($1), it will be a boon for developing countries that are fighting the killer virus.

How Effective Is the Rotavirus Vaccine?

Studies of the rotavirus vaccine have shown that it can prevent about 74% of rotavirus infections. More importantly, it can prevent approximately 98% of severe infections and 96% of hospitalizations from rotavirus.

What are the side effects and Contraindications?

Both rotavirus vaccines are safe and well-tolerated with occasional vomiting, diarrhea. Intussusception incidence is not increased but caution is recommended in children with uncorrected congenital malformation of the GI tract which predisposes to intussusception.

The vaccine is contraindicated in an infant who has a history of severe allergy (e.g. anaphylaxis) to the rotavirus vaccine previously. Human monovalent vaccine oral applicator contains latex hence this is contraindicated in an infant with severe latex allergy.

The vaccines should not be given in children with a history of previous intussusceptions or immunodeficiency.

What should be done if a child spits the vaccine?

Administration of vaccine is not required if the infant spits, vomits or regurgitates during or after administration of the vaccine though manufacturers of human monovalent vaccine recommend the dose may be repeated at the same visit. The infant should receive the remaining recommended doses as per the routine schedule.

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