What is the rotavirus vaccine?

Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea (a form of pediatric gastroenteritis) that mainly affects infants and children up to the age of five. The disease is caused by a toxin produced by the virus, that attacks the cells of the small intestine and prevents the absorption of water. It occurs through ingestion of contaminated water or food. Due to the fact that rotavirus is spread by faecal-oral route, it is present in the stool of the infected individual several days before symptoms appear and for up to 10 days after symptoms subside. Dehydration is a serious complication of rotavirus and a major cause of childhood deaths in developing countries. Other symptoms associated with dehydration include: decrease in urination, dry mouth or throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up. 

Rotavirus is widespread in the environment and in Italy, the risk of contracting it is highest in the winter season. A few instances in which the virus can spread include: hand to mouth contact, poor hygiene, as well as touching contaminated objects.

Children who are unable to receive the rotavirus vaccine include the following:

  • Children who have had a severe allergic reaction to an earlier dose
  • Children with weakened immune systems (HIV/AIDs, cancer or cancer treatment)

Along with taking proper hygienic attention, vaccination is the best way to help prevent rotavirus infection. Since there are many types of rotavirus, it is possible to be infected more than once even if an individual has been vaccinated, though repeat infections tend to be less severe.

What is the rotavirus vaccine composed of?

The rotavirus vaccine is made ​​from live viruses  and is administered orally . There are two brands of rotavirus available. The infant will receive either two or three doses, depending on the type of vaccine used.  

When is it recommended to receive the rotavirus vaccine?

The rotavirus vaccine is often administered in newborn infants. Two or three doses are generally administered depending on the infant’s age. For vaccination in two doses, the first dose is recommended in infants between 6 and 12 weeks and the second after at least 4 weeks following the first dose.

For vaccination in three doses, the first dose is recommended in infants up to 2 months of age, the second dose at 4 months of age and the third dose at 6 months of age. Within 32 weeks, it is necessary to have completed the cycle. Almost all babies who get the rotavirus vaccine will be protected from severe rotavirus diarrhea and most of these babies will not get rotavirus diarrhea at all.

What are the side effects of the rotavirus vaccine?

Following administration, symptoms that may occur include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased irritability
  • Fever

Like all vaccines, there is the possibility of serious problems occurring, such as severe allergic reactions. Through rare, there are such cases that may present themselves and cause symptoms in individuals such as bloody diarrhea, hives, swelling of the face and throat, unusual sleepiness, and difficulty breathing or intussusception. These symptoms would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination and seeking medical attention is essential.