Q&A: Is the rotavirus vaccine safe for infants?
I heard that the new rotavirus vaccine for infants should not be given because of possible side effects. Is that true? What is the danger?
There are two different infant rotavirus vaccines currently licensed for use in the US—both of which were shown to be both safe and effective in clinical trials before they were licensed. The reason rotavirus vaccine is so important is because rotavirus is notoriously recognized as the world’s leading cause of severe childhood vomiting and diarrhea (i.e. severe acute gastroenteritis), and during the clinical trials the vaccine was found to prevent almost all severe rotavirus illnesses (85 to 98 percent) and a majority of all rotavirus illnesses (74 to 87 percent).
As for side effects, fortunately the current rotavirus vaccine does not appear to cause any serious side effects. As with all vaccines, you should simply be sure to review the Rotavirus Vaccine Information Statement from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for current general information on what rotavirus is, who should get vaccinated, vaccine risks, what to look for, and where to go to learn more.
And finally, I imagine what you heard was based on a different type of rotavirus vaccine that was used in the 1990s. That different vaccine was found to be associated with a particular type of bowel obstruction (called intussusception) and subsequently taken off the market. Even though the current rotavirus vaccine has not been associated with intussusception, babies who have had intussusception from any cause are considered at higher risk and this risk should be discussed with their doctor.