Rotavirus is a disease that used to make thousands of babies and young children sick every year. Thanks to the rotavirus vaccine, the number of children who get sick with the disease in the United States has dropped.

The rotavirus vaccine is given orally, meaning your child will swallow it.

Why is the rotavirus vaccine important?

Rotavirus is a contagious disease — it spreads easily from child to child. Rotavirus can cause diarrhea (watery poop), which can lead to dehydration (not having enough water in the body). Children who get severe cases of rotavirus may need to be hospitalized.

The rotavirus vaccine protects 9 out of 10 children from getting severe illness caused by rotavirus.

The rotavirus vaccine is the best way to protect your child from rotavirus.

What is rotavirus?

Rotavirus is caused by a virus, and it mostly affects babies and young children. Symptoms of rotavirus include:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Throwing up
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Changes in behavior

Rotavirus spreads when a person comes in contact with the poop of someone who has rotavirus and then touches their own mouth. For example, rotavirus can spread when a child with rotavirus doesn’t wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches food or other objects.

Learn more about rotavirus

Who needs to get the rotavirus vaccine?

All infants ages 2 through 6 months need to get the rotavirus vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule.

Children get 2 or 3 doses, depending on which brand of the rotavirus vaccine they get. They need a dose of the vaccine at the following ages:

  • 2 months for the first dose
  • 4 months for the second dose
  • 6 months for the third dose (if they’re getting 3 doses)

Talk with your child’s doctor about how to protect them from rotavirus.

Who should not get the rotavirus vaccine?

Some babies should not get the rotavirus vaccine, including babies who:

  • Have had a severe allergic reaction to the rotavirus vaccine in the past
  • Are severely allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine
  • Have severe combined immunodeficiency disorder (a group of rare genetic disorders that affect the immune system)
  • Have had intussusception (a kind of blockage in the intestine)

If your child is sick, they may need to wait until they’re better to get the rotavirus vaccine. And talk with your child’s doctor before your child gets the vaccine if your child:

  • Has HIV/AIDS
  • Has cancer
  • Is taking medicine that can weaken the immune system

What are the side effects of the rotavirus vaccine?

Most babies who get the rotavirus vaccine don’t have any side effects. If it does cause side effects, they’re usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:

  • Fussing
  • Diarrhea (watery poop)
  • Throwing up

There’s also a small chance that the rotavirus vaccine can cause intussusception, a very rare disease that causes a blockage in the intestine. This happens in somewhere between 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 babies who get the vaccine. Intussusception is treatable. But it can be deadly if it’s not treated.

Like any medicine, there’s a very small chance that the rotavirus vaccine could cause other serious reactions. Keep in mind that getting the rotavirus vaccine is much safer than getting rotavirus. Learn more about vaccine side effects.

Get vaccinated

Getting vaccinated is easy. Vaccines are available at the doctor’s office and many pharmacies — and most are covered by insurance.

Find out how to get vaccinated.

Content created by Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP)
Content last reviewed