More detail about who should get this vaccine
A history of certain gastrointestinal and bowel disorders may make this vaccine unsuitable for some infants. These include those with:
- a history of intussusception, where part of the bowel folds in on itself (like a collapsible telescope)
- gastrointestinal malformation that could predispose them to intussusception
Research from some countries suggest that two extra cases of intussusception may occur for every 100,000 first doses of Rotarix that are given. This would happen within seven days of vaccination. When compared to the number of cases that happen anyway - 120 per 100,000 children - this is a very low additional risk and should be compared to the benefits of the vaccine in preventing severe rotavirus infection.
The first dose of Rotarix is always given before 15 weeks of age, as the side effect of intussusception seems unlikely to occur if the vaccine doses start at this age. This also reduces the chance of the vaccine being wrongly blamed for cases of intussusception that sometimes occur naturally at around five months of age. There are strict rules about the age at which rotavirus vaccine should be given to babies, to avoid the risk of intussusception.
See these studies for more information:
The vaccine contains live human rotavirus that has been weakened (attenuated), so that it stimulates the immune system but does not cause disease in healthy people. However it should not be given to people who are clinically immunosuppressed, either due to drug treatment or underlying illness. This is because the vaccine strain could replicate too much and cause a serious infection. This includes babies whose mothers have had immunosuppressive treatment while they were pregnant or breastfeeding.
For more information see the MHRA's Drug Safety Update (April 2016) .
Impact of the rotavirus vaccine
In the UK, experts predicted that the rotavirus vaccine would:
- halve the number of rotavirus cases seen by GPs each year. Before a vaccine was introduced, 130,000 UK children a year visited their GP with rotavirus infection;
- cut the number of hospital admissions by two thirds. Before a vaccine was introduced, around 12,700 UK children a year were hospitalised with rotavirus infection.
The graph below shows what has happened in the UK since the rotavirus vaccine was introduced in July 2013. In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the number of reported cases of rotavirus fell by over 70% compared to previous years. Rotavirus infections tend to peak between January and March, but in these years there was no significant peak in cases.
For more information see the 2015 study showing the rapid decline in rotavirus infection from Public Health England and Imperial College London.
Click here for an accessible text version of this graph
Source: Public Health England Rotavirus data 2006 to 2015 and 2007 to 2016