The rotavirus vaccine is a live-virus vaccine that helps protect against gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, and, if symptoms persist, dehydration and organ damage.
Two formulations of rotavirus virus are available. Both contain live but weakened (attenuated) rotavirus.
For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Rotavirus vaccine information statement.
(See also Overview of Immunization.)
The rotavirus vaccine is part of the recommended vaccination schedule for children. This vaccine is given by mouth. Two or three doses are given, depending on the formulation: at age 2 months and 4 months or at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.
People who have had serious allergic reactions to a previous dose of the vaccine or to a vaccine component should not be given the rotavirus vaccine.
Certain conditions may affect whether and when people are vaccinated (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?). For example, rotavirus vaccine should not be given to infants who have certain immunodeficiency disorders or who have had intussusception (when one segment of the intestine slides into another).
If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves.
Infants may have mild, temporary diarrhea or vomiting. They may become irritable.
When an older rotavirus vaccine was used, the risk of intussusception was increased. In intussusception, the intestine is blocked because one segment of the intestine slides into another, much like the parts of a telescope. The older vaccine was taken off the market in the United States. The newer vaccines, when given as recommended, may increase the risk of intussusception, but only slightly.