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Topic of the month : Rotavirus


Protect Your Child against

Rotavirus Disease

Photo: A young girl with a laptop computer.

Rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea, mostly in babies and young children. The good news is that there are vaccines to help prevent this disease.

Photo: Parents and child.

Rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea in infants and young children; vomiting and fever often also occur during the illness. Sometimes children with rotavirus cannot drink enough fluids to keep from becoming dehydrated.

Rotavirus is very contagious. People who get a rotavirus infection shed large amounts of the virus in their feces (stool). The disease spreads when infants or young children get rotavirus in their mouth. This happens through contact with the hands of other people or objects (such as toys) that have been contaminated with small amounts of rotavirus.

Before rotavirus vaccines were available in the United States, more than 200,000 young children each year received care in hospital emergency departments for rotavirus disease, and 55,000 to 70,000 young children were hospitalized. 


Rotavirus Vaccine Protection

Two rotavirus vaccines are available. Both vaccines are given by mouth (oral) and both are very effective (85%-98% in the original studies) in preventing severe rotavirus disease in infants and young children.

  • Rotateq® has been used since 2006. Infants should receive three doses of this vaccine—at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age.
  • Rotarix® has been used since 2008. Infants should receive two doses of this vaccine—at 2 months and 4 months of age.

The first dose of the rotavirus vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks and needs to be given before an infant turns 15 weeks of age.

Photo: A baby.

Children should receive all doses of rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months of age.


Paying for Vaccines

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines, but you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have insurance, or if it does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. The Vaccines for Children Program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. The program provides vaccines at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children.


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