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Rotavirus vaccine FAQs

How is rotavirus spread?

How is the rotavirus vaccine given?

What if my baby spits out the vaccine or vomits immediately after having it?

When will the rotavirus vaccine be given to babies?

What if my baby misses the first dose of rotavirus vaccine?

Why can't older babies have the rotavirus vaccination?

Which babies shouldn't have the rotavirus vaccination?

Is the rotavirus vaccine made in eggs? Does this affect children with allergies?

Does the rotavirus vaccine contain thiomersal?

What if my baby is ill on the day the vaccination is due?

How long will the rotavirus vaccination protect my baby for?

Can I opt out if I wish?

Is it ok to breastfeed my baby after the vaccination?

Do I need to take special care when changing my baby's nappy after rotavirus vaccination?

Will the rotavirus vaccination stop my baby getting any sickness and diarrhoea?

My baby was premature. When should they have the rotavirus vaccine?

How is rotavirus spread?

Rotavirus is spread in faeces (poo) through hand-to-mouth contact and can be picked up from surfaces such as toys, hands or dirty nappies. It can also be spread through the air by sneezing and coughing. It’s most often spread when someone who is infected does not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet.

Washing hands and keeping surfaces clean can help to reduce the spread of the virus, but will never completely stop it. Vaccination is a much more effective way of protecting babies from getting infected.

How is the rotavirus vaccine given?

Rotavirus vaccine is given as a liquid from a dropper straight into the baby’s mouth.

What if my baby spits out the vaccine or vomits immediately after having it?

The drops will be given again. Don’t worry about overdosing. Even if some of the vaccine went in first time, there’s no harm in mistakenly having two doses at the same time.

When will the rotavirus vaccine be given to babies?

The first dose will be given at two months, and the second dose at three months.

What if my baby misses the first dose of rotavirus vaccine?

They can have it a month later, at three months old. If they miss the second dose of rotavirus vaccine (normally given at three months), they can have that a month later, at four months old.

Why can’t older babies have the rotavirus vaccination?

Older children have very often already had a rotavirus infection, so there is no point in vaccinating them.

Also, as they get older, some babies – about one in a thousand – get a condition that causes a blockage in their lower gut, called intussusception. It’s extremely rare before three months of age, and most cases happen between five months and a year old.

There’s a very small chance (around two in every hundred thousand babies vaccinated) that the first dose of the vaccine might also cause this blockage to develop. To reduce the risk of this happening, the first dose of the vaccine won’t be given to babies older than 15 weeks of age.

Which babies shouldn’t have the rotavirus vaccine?

Your baby shouldn’t have the vaccine if they have had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of rotavirus vaccine or any of its ingredients. The vaccine shouldn't be given if your baby has any of the following long-term conditions:

• a history of intussusception (a disorder of the intestines)
• severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) disorder – a rare genetic disease that makes babies very vulnerable to infection
• fructose intolerance, glucose-galactose malabsorption or sucrase-isomaltase insufficiency – which are all rare inherited disorders

Is the rotavirus vaccine made in eggs? Does this affect children with allergies?

This vaccine is not made in eggs and should be perfectly safe for babies with general allergies, although any baby with a history of allergy to the vaccine or constituents of the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

Does the rotavirus vaccine contain thiomersal?

No. Thiomersal is a mercury-based substance that used to be commonly included as a preservative in vaccines, but which has been eliminated from all routine childhood vaccinations.

Read more about vaccine ingredients.

What if my baby is ill on the day the vaccination is due?

There’s no reason to postpone the appointment, unless your baby is seriously ill with a fever or diarrhoea and vomiting. If your baby is well enough to have the other routine vaccinations, they can have the rotavirus vaccine.

Here are the top vaccination tips for parents.

How long will the rotavirus vaccine protect my baby for?

We don't know for sure, but clinical trials have shown that two doses of the vaccine protect for several years.

Can I opt out if I wish?

Yes. No one can force you to have your baby vaccinated against rotavirus infection, but the evidence suggests that it’s in the best interests of your child.

Read more about this and the other top questions that parents have about baby vaccinations.

Is it ok to breastfeed my baby after the vaccination?

Yes. There are no problems linked with breastfeeding babies who have recently had the rotavirus vaccine.

Do I need to take special care when changing my baby’s nappy after rotavirus vaccination?

Yes. Because the vaccine is given to your baby by mouth, it’s possible that the virus in the vaccine will pass through your baby’s gut and be picked up by whoever changes their nappy.

The vaccine contains only a weakened form of the rotavirus, so traces of it in a baby’s nappy won’t harm healthy people. However, it could pose a risk for people with a weak immune system (such as anyone taking long-term steroid tablets or having chemotherapy).

As a precaution, anyone in close contact with recently vaccinated babies should take special care with personal hygiene, including washing their hands carefully after changing the baby’s nappy.

Will the rotavirus vaccine stop my baby getting any sickness and diarrhoea?

No. Rotavirus isn’t the only cause of sickness and diarrhoea in babies, so some may still get unwell. However, the vaccine will stop about 8 out of 10 babies that have the vaccine getting vomiting caused by rotavirus. The more babies that have the vaccine, the more difficult it will be for the virus to spread.

My baby was premature. When should they have the rotavirus vaccine?

As with all vaccinations, the schedule should be followed from the actual date of birth, not from the date your baby was due. Therefore, your baby should have the rotavirus vaccine at two months and three months old, no matter how premature they were.

Read about vaccinations for premature babies.

Last Updated: 17/02/2022 16:07:37
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website