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Rotavirus & Rotavirus vaccine quick facts

Updated February 22, 2024



  • Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among children worldwide.  There are five main strains that cause more than 90 percent of human rotavirus infections in developed countries, such as the U.S., but rotavirus strains are more diverse in developing countries. 
  • Rotavirus is very contagious and spreads when individuals come into contact with an infected person’s body fluids or feces, or items that have been in contact with the feces of an infected person.  Most cases of rotavirus occur in children ages three to 35 months old. 
  • Rotavirus disease usually starts with upset stomach and vomiting, often with fever, followed by diarrhea. The watery diarrhea can be mild to severe and will generally last for three to eight days.  Severe dehydration is a significant complication of rotavirus and often the cause of death among children living in developing countries.  Virtually all children become infected with rotavirus in the first five years of life.  It is possible to have rotavirus infection more than once since neither the vaccine or natural infection confers full immunity to all strains of the virus. 
  • By 1980, the CDC had declared rotavirus to be the most frequent cause of serious gastrointestinal illness in infants and toddlers and estimated that the virus caused between 20 and 60 deaths annually in the United States. The infection, however, has never been a nationally notifiable disease, therefore it is not known how many cases actually occur each year. 
  • Laboratory testing is required to confirm a diagnosis of rotavirus because clinical symptoms of the illness are similar to those caused by other pathogens. 

Rotavirus Vaccine

  • Two oral rotavirus vaccines have been approved for use in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a two-dose series given at 2 and 4 months of age for ROTARIX vaccine, and a three dose series given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age for RotaTeq vaccine.  Both vaccines contain genetically engineered live attenuated human rotavirus strains or hybrid human-bovine reassortment rotavirus strains.   
  • Common side effects from the rotavirus vaccines include diarrhea, vomiting, irritability, otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear), nasopharyngitis (inflammation of the nasal passages and cold-like symptoms), and bronchospasm (asthma and bronchitis-like symptoms). Reported serious adverse reactions following rotavirus vaccination include intussusception (bowel blockage), Kawasaki Disease (inflammation of the blood vessels), ear infection and pneumonia.    Contraindications to vaccination include severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to vaccine or vaccine component, history of intussusception, and Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). 
  • As of February 1, 2024, there have been 127 claims filed in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) for injuries and deaths following rotavirus vaccination, including six deaths and 121 serious injuries.
  • Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of January 26, 2024, there have been 39,220 adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in connection with rotavirus vaccines. Of these reported adverse events, 12,519 were listed as serious and 974 were deaths.

Food & Drug Administration (FDA) 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Vaccine Reaction Symptoms & Ingredients

Our Ask 8, If You Vaccinate webpage contains vaccine reaction symptoms and more. 

Search for Vaccine Reactions

NVIC hosts MedAlerts, a powerful VAERS database search engine. MedAlerts examines symptoms, reactions, vaccines, dates, places, and more.

Reporting a Vaccine Reaction

Since 1982, the NVIC has operated a Vaccine Reaction Registry, which has served as a watchdog on VAERS. Reporting vaccine reactions to VAERS is the law. If your doctor will not report a reaction, you have the right to report a suspected vaccine reaction to VAERS.

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about rotavirus and rotavirus vaccines by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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