Rotavirus Oral Vaccine

This page provides a brief summary of the disease and the vaccine that is available to prevent it. Links to more detailed information are provided at the bottom of the page.


baby boy


What is rotavirus disease?

Rotavirus is a viral infection which causes diarrhoea and vomiting in babies and young children. It is very infectious. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children in Ireland under the age of 5 years. It is most common in the Spring and Winter.

Most children will recover at home but some need to be admitted to hospital. Every year in Ireland almost 1000 children under the age of 5 are admitted to hospital with rotavirus infection. The average length of time they spend in hospital is 5 days. Babies and young children can now be protected from this disease by the rotavirus oral vaccine.

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How do people get rotavirus disease?

Rotavirus is very infectious and can spread easily. It can be spread through hand to mouth contact, such as from touching toys, surfaces, dirty nappies or can be spread through the air from coughing and sneezing.

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What are the symptoms of rotavirus disease?

Rotavirus causes diarrhoea which can be severe, stomach cramps, vomiting, dehydration and a low-grade fever. Symptoms occur 1 – 3 days after being exposed to rotavirus infection and can last approximately 3-8 days. Rarely diarrhoea may last for up to 3 weeks. Children with rotavirus disease can spread the infection from 2 days before they become unwell with the infection and up to 10 days after they become unwell.

If 1,000 children get rotavirus:

  • 1,000 get vomiting and diarrhoea
  • 3 will need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
  • Young children need to stay in hospital for an average of 5 days, if they are admitted.

Children may get rotavirus disease more than once because there are many different rotavirus types, but second infections tend to be less severe than the first infections.

If you are concerned your child may have rotavirus infection, please attend your GP for review.

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Who should get rotavirus oral vaccine?

Rotavirus disease is prevented by vaccination. All children born on or after 1 October 2016 will be given rotavirus oral vaccine at 2 and 4 months of age.

Rotavirus oral vaccine should not be given to babies who are 8 months 0 days and older.

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When should rotavirus oral vaccine be delayed?

Vaccine should be delayed for babies who are suffering from

  • an acute febrile illness or,
  • an acute vomiting or diarrhoea illness

until they have fully recovered.

Rotavirus oral vaccine CANNOT be given to babies who are 8 months 0 days and older. 

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Should a baby who has already been infected with rotavirus still get the vaccine?

Yes. Babies who have recovered from a rotavirus infection may not be immune to all of the virus types present in the vaccine. The vaccine will help better protect the baby against further episodes of infection. So babies who have previ­ously had rotavirus disease should still get the vaccines before age 8 months and 0 days.

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Why is rotavirus oral vaccine being introduced into the primary childhood immunisation schedule?

Rotavirus disease is very common and by the age of five most children will have had vomiting and diarrhoea from rotavirus disease. Studies have shown that rotavirus oral vaccine is very effective in preventing rotavirus disease in young babies. The HSE received funding to include the rotavirus oral vaccine in the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule for all children born on or after 1 October 2016. The rotavirus oral vaccine will protect young babies and children from this common disease.

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Does the rotavirus oral vaccine protect against all gastroenteritis disease?

Rotavirus oral vaccine protects against gastrointestinal diseases caused by rotavirus infection. It will not prevent against diseases caused by other gastrointestinal viral infections, such as norovirus. 

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Who should not get rotavirus oral vaccine?

There are very few people who should not get rotavirus oral vaccine. Your child should not get rotavirus oral vaccine if they have:

  • had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of vaccine or any part of the vaccine;
  • a history of blocked gut (intussusception);
  • a diagnosis of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID);
  • a problem with their gastrointestinal tract (gut) which might increases the risk of a blocked gut;
  • a hereditary fructose intolerance,  sucrose – maltase deficiency or glucose-galactose malabsorption (sugar intolerance).

Rotavirus oral vaccine should not be given to babies 8 months 0 days and older as the risk of a blocked gut (intussusception) is greater in older children.

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How is the rotavirus vaccine given?

The rotavirus oral vaccine is given as a liquid dropped into the mouth of your child.

You should watch how your GP (doctor) / practice nurse gives the rotavirus oral drops to see how to give infant liquid paracetamol, which is recommended after MenB vaccine.

You can feed your child at any stage before or after the vaccine.

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What to expect after having rotavirus oral vaccine?

After getting the vaccine, your child may have mild diarrhoea. Give your child plenty of milk and make sure they stay well hydrated.

Wash your hands carefully after changing and disposing of your child’s nappy.

Of the children who get rotavirus oral vaccine:

  • 1 in 10 will have mild diarrhoea
  • 1 in 100 will have tummy pain
  • 1 in 100 will have inflamed skin.

Children usually recover from these minor side effects within a day or two

Serious side effects (severe allergy) are very rare.

Very rarely, a child might develop a blockage in their gut (called intussusception).

In Ireland, approximately 1 in 1500 babies will get this condition naturally, and it is most common between the ages of 5 months and 1 year. A gut blockage after rotavirus oral vaccine happens in about 1 in 50,000 children vaccinated.

Children with a blocked gut get a severe pain in their tummy. The pain will come and go, but will get more frequent over a few hours. They become very pale during episodes and cry.They might also be sick or get blood in their nappies. If this happens, contact your GP (doctor) urgently. This can be treated in hospital.

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How does rotavirus oral vaccine work?

The vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to build up protection against rotavirus disease.

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How effective is rotavirus oral vaccine?

Rotavirus oral vaccine has been shown to very effective providing 82-94% protection against rotavirus types.

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Can my child be immunised with rotavirus vaccine while they are in close contact with a pregnant woman?

Yes. There is no problem with this. In fact, immunising the child will protect the pregnant woman from being exposed to diseases like rotavirus. However, as rotavirus vaccine is an oral vaccine, pregnant women should wash their hands carefully after changing nappies. 

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Can a baby go swimming after rotavirus oral vaccine?

Yes. You should take the usual hygiene measures when changing your baby’s nappy after rotavirus oral vaccine. If your baby gets diarrhoea as a side effect of the vaccine, your baby  should not go swimming for two weeks after the diarrhoea has settled.

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Where can I find out more?

You can ask for further information regarding immunisation from your G.P., Public Health Nurse or local health office.

In addition the links below provide some more detailed information:

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This page was updated on 27 March 2018