What is it for?
This vaccine protects your child from infection with the rotaviruses which cause stomach problems. Nearly all children will be exposed to rotaviruses many times in their life.
Rotavirus infection can cause severe gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) in children up to 5 years old. The gastroenteritis can range from mild, watery diarrhoea that lasts for a short time, to severe diarrhoea with vomiting and fever, which can lead to dehydration and even death.
In Australia, 1 in 27 children aged 5 years or younger who are not vaccinated and who become infected with rotavirus will need to go to hospital for treatment.
The rotavirus vaccination reduces the risk of your child getting gastroenteritis due to rotavirus infection by about 70%, and reduces the risk of your child developing severe gastroenteritis that needs hospital treatment by 85% to 100%.
Who should be vaccinated?
Children aged 2 months and older
Rotavirus vaccination is given free to all children under the National Immunisation Program. The first vaccination is given to children when they are about 2 months old. There are two or three further booster vaccinations at 4 and/or 6 months depending on which brand of rotavirus vaccine is used. Your doctor will make sure the correct brand of vaccine is given to your child according to their age.
If your child has another illness, fever (i.e. a temperature 38.5°C or higher), diarrhoea or vomiting when they are due to be vaccinated, tell your doctor, as the vaccination may need to be postponed until they are well again.
Seek specialist medical advice before your child has the rotavirus vaccination if:
- your child has a weakened immune system; for example, due to a medical condition (e.g. severe combined immunodeficiency disease) or medicines they are taking (e.g. after an organ transplant)
- your child has had intussusception (a bowel blockage) before, or has a medical condition that affects their stomach and/or intestines
- had a reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis) after having the rotavirus vaccination or after any vaccination.
Although children with these medical conditions are more likely to have a more severe rotavirus infection if they are not vaccinated, the safety of the vaccine has not been tested in children with these conditions.
Rotavirus infections can cause serious illness, and the risks of vaccinating your child need to be weighed against the risk of infection and illness.
Older children and adults
The rotavirus vaccine is not recommended for older children and is not given to adults.
It’s important that anyone who comes in close contact with a child who has a rotavirus infection uses good hygiene practices (e.g. washes their hands after changing a nappy), to avoid being affected with the virus or transmitting it to other people.
For more information, read the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance rotavirus factsheet.
The rotavirus vaccine is not given to adults.
Read more about what vaccines you can have if you are pregnant.
Women who are breastfeeding
The rotavirus vaccine is not given to any adult.
In general, there is no known risk to your baby if you are vaccinated with any vaccine — except the yellow fever vaccine — while you are breastfeeding.
Common side effects of the rotavirus vaccines that may affect 1 to 10 in every 100 children include:
- loss of appetite
- vomiting and diarrhoea (for up to 1 week after vaccination).
A rare side effect of vaccination is an intestine (bowel) blockage (intussusception) within 7 days after the first vaccination. If your child has intussusception, they may need treatment in hospital.
Intussusception is rare and it can happen even if your child has not been vaccinated. There are normally about 200 cases per year in Australia, even without vaccination. An additional six babies per year may get intussusception in Australia following a rotavirus vaccination.
If you notice that your child is pale, crying more than usual, and has stomach pain (indicated if your child pulls his or her legs up to their chest), seek medical attention.
To find out more, read the National Immunisation Program’s information for parents about the rotavirus vaccine and intussusception.
Read more about vaccine side effects and safety.
Who can I ask about side effects?
If you’re concerned that you or your child may have had side effects related to a vaccine, seek medical advice. To report and discuss possible side effects, call the Adverse Medicines Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm AEST).
- Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Office of Health Protection. 4.17 Rotavirus. In: The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th edn. www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/handbook10-4-17
- Rossi S, ed. eAMH [online]. Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook, January 2013.
- National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance. Rotavirus. Fact sheet. www.ncirs.edu.au/immunisation/fact-sheets/rotavirus-fact-sheet.pdf
- Rotavirus vaccines (Rotarix and RotaTeq) for prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis. NPS RADAR, 1 July 2007. www.nps.org.au/health_professionals/publications/nps_radar/2007/july_2007/rotavirus_vaccines