The new rotavirus oral vaccine, for infants 6-24 weeks of age, is a safe and effective way to protect your baby from this serious disease.
Rotavirus is one of the leading causes of severe diarrhea in infants and children. It causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, sometimes called gastroenteritis. Most young children are infected with it at least once by age five. In Ontario, children under 2 years of age suffer the most from rotavirus and are most likely to have severe complications that lead to hospitalizations.
Once a person has been exposed to rotavirus, it takes about 24-72 hours for symptoms to appear. Symptoms include:
Vomiting and diarrhea can last from 3-8 days.
How it spreads
Rotavirus is very contagious, spreading easily from children who are already infected to other children and sometimes adults. Large amounts of rotavirus are shed in the stool of an infected person, the virus can be easily spread via contaminated hands and objects, such as toys. Children can spread the rotavirus both before and after they become sick with diarrhea.
It is very common for children to be in contact with the virus in daycare centres, family homes and homes for the elderly. Children can be infected with rotavirus several times during their lives.
Common ways to get the rotavirus infection include :
The vaccine is the best way to protect children against rotavirus disease. It will not prevent diarrhea and vomiting caused by other infectious bugs, but it is very good at preventing severe diarrhea and vomiting caused by rotavirus.
The rotavirus vaccine that is being used in Ontario, Rotarix™, has shown 85-96% effective protection against severe inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by rotavirus.
The vaccine offers at least 70-87% protection against rotavirus infection of any severity.
Infants, between 2 and 6 months
In Ontario, the rotavirus vaccine is publicly funded for infants 6 - 24 weeks of age. The following dosing schedule is recommended:
All rotavirus vaccine doses should be given by 24 weeks of age.
Rotavirus vaccines are only recommended for use in young infants. The use of rotavirus vaccine is not recommended for older children and adults. Most older children and adults will have some immunity to rotavirus disease because of previous infection at a younger age.
The rotavirus vaccine is an oral vaccine that is swallowed. It is not injected.
The vaccine form of the rotavirus can be found in the stool or feces of infants for up to 10 days after they have received their vaccination, and can infect people who are not immunized.
To prevent the spread of the virus, wash your hands carefully after contact with the vaccinated infant, especially after changing a diaper.
Infants who :
Administration of the rotavirus vaccine should be temporarily delayed in infants suffering from fever, diarrhea or vomiting. Severe allergy to latex requires special consideration before vaccination.
You should always discuss the benefits and risks of any vaccine with your health care provider or local public health unit.
The rotavirus vaccine is safe. Most babies who get the rotavirus vaccine do not have any complications. Your child may become irritable or have mild, temporary diarrhea after getting a dose.
Rarely, babies may experience an allergic reaction such as itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue. Severe reactions are very rare and may include a slight increased risk of bowel obstruction (intussusception).
Intussusception is a rare type of bowel obstruction. Children are not more likely to get intussusception from the rotavirus vaccine.
Contact your local public health unit for additional information about how to get the vaccine for your child.
Be sure you read and understand the information that will be provided to you by your local public health unit and by your health care provider.
Call your health care provider or go to the nearest hospital emergency department if your child has any of the following reactions within three days of receiving the rotavirus vaccine :
Any reaction to a vaccine should be reported to your health care provider who will report these occurrences to your local public health unit.
For more information please contact your health care provider or your local public health unit.
After any immunization, make sure your personal immunization record (i.e., the “Yellow Card”) is updated. If your child is attending child care or school, inform your local public health unit each time your child receives an immunization.
An immunization record is required for child care, school attendance, for certain types of travel and work, so keep it in a safe place.
Download this fact sheet for more information.
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