Rotavirus gets its name from the fact that, under a microscope, the virus resembles a wheel. And you could say, like a wheel, rotavirus goes round and round.
This nasty, potentially lethal bug causes severe acute gastroenteritis with diarrhoea and vomiting primarily in infants and young children. Fortunately, there are two safe rotavirus vaccines that can protect children from this disease.
In November 2012, the Department of Health announced that a rotavirus vaccine will be given with other routine vaccines by the age of four months; a new oral vaccine has also been made available for babies aged 2 months and 3 months.
Before being approved, the rotavirus vaccine was tested on more than 70,000 children and found to be safe. However, an earlier vaccine, called RotaShield, was removed from the market after being used for two years because it was found to increase the risk of intussusception - a condition in which the small bowel folds back inside another part of the intestine, causing a bowel obstruction. This has left some people feeling sceptical about the new vaccine. It is important that people consider the vaccine though especially after the dire consequences of not vaccinating toddlers against MMR 15 years ago and the measles epidemic in Wales.
The use of the rotavirus vaccination in the UK is expected to have substantial health benefits for vaccinated children as well as the wider population (herd protection- because the virus isn’t passed on). The impact will be most pronounced in winter, when many seasonal infections are at their peak and pressures on the NHS are the greatest. If you would like to ask a midwife online or over the phone any questions on vaccinations for your baby the Simply Better Birth independent midwives are available to speak.