Rotavirus Vaccine Schedule for Newborns

Rotavirus is especially common in infants and young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all babies should get two or three doses of the rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months old to protect against rotavirus disease and related complications. The rotavirus vaccine is safe and effective. Approximately 9 in 10 children who get the rotavirus vaccine are protected against severe illness from rotavirus disease, and 7 in 10 don’t get rotavirus at all. 

This article will go over what parents need to know about the rotavirus vaccine for babies, including the rotavirus vaccine schedule, available vaccines, side effects, and more. 

Baby getting vaccine from doctor

Daniel Balakov / Getty Images

How Serious Is the Rotavirus Infection in Children?

Rotavirus often spreads among babies and young children. Nearly all children are infected with rotavirus at least once before they turn five.  Because rotavirus is transmitted through fecal matter (poop), it’s especially common to spread in daycares and other childcare facilities. Rotavirus infections are particularly common in winter and spring when people are indoors more often. 

Rotavirus is highly contagious, but most cases are mild. However, rotavirus can sometimes lead to life-threatening dehydration (loss of fluids). This is especially true in infants under 12 months old, for whom severe dehydration can be fatal. Some infants with rotavirus may need to receive intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration.  In very rare cases, babies with rotavirus may experience convulsions or go into shock. Rotavirus-related deaths are usually due to dehydration.

Incubation Period

The rotavirus incubation period is relatively short, just two days or less. After symptoms begin, they usually stop within about a week.

Rotavirus Vaccine Schedule

The CDC recommends that babies get two or three doses of the rotavirus vaccine, starting at 2 months old. Typically, the first dose is administered before an infant turns 15 weeks old. The final dose is given before the baby is 8 months old. 

If your baby missed their first dose of the rotavirus vaccine, don’t worry. They can receive the next dose(s) on the CDC-recommended immunization schedule. However, the vaccine shouldn’t be given after eight months.

Available Vaccines

There are two rotavirus vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States: 

  • RotaTeq (RV5): Given in a three-dose series at 2, 4, and 6 months
  • Rotarix (RV1): Given in two doses at 2 and 4 months

The FDA approved the above vaccines in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Both rotavirus vaccines are safe and effective in large-scale studies. They are both live-attenuated vaccines, which prompt the body’s immune response with a weakened version of the virus.

(Oral) Route of Administration

Both rotavirus vaccines—RotaTeq and Rotarix—are given orally. This means that they aren’t given as an injection (shot). Instead, the rotavirus vaccine is administered by putting drops in a baby’s mouth. 

Because the rotavirus vaccine is given by mouth, there is a small chance that someone could get rotavirus from contacting a baby’s stool (such as when changing their diaper) shortly after they are vaccinated. This usually isn’t a problem, but it may be a concern if you or someone else in your household is immunocompromised. Make sure you clean your hands very well after each diaper change one to two weeks after your baby’s vaccination.

Rotavirus Vaccine Recall

After receiving FDA approval in 1998, RotaShield—the first rotavirus vaccine—was quickly recalled. Shortly after going on the market, this early rotavirus vaccine increased the risk of intussusception—a type of bowel blockage—in some babies under 12 months old. 


The CDC immediately stopped recommending the vaccine, and it has not been on the market anywhere in the United States since 1999.

Side Effects

Common side effects of the rotavirus vaccine include:

  • Fussiness
  • Crying
  • Vomiting
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Irritability

Usually, these side effects are mild and go away on their own.

In extremely rare cases, babies who get the rotavirus vaccine may have a higher risk of intussusception – a type of bowel blockage that requires hospitalization and surgery. This may happen about a week after the first or second dose of the vaccine. Seek medical help if your baby:

  • Is showing signs of abdominal pain, such as pulling their legs up to their chest
  • Cries more frequently than usual
  • Vomits frequently
  • Has blood in their stool
  • Shows signs of weakness or lethargy

Some studies have not found that the rotavirus vaccine increases the risk of intussusception. Intussusception may also happen in unvaccinated infants. 

Tell your healthcare provider before your child receives the rotavirus vaccine if they:

  • Had an allergic reaction to a prior dose of the vaccine
  • Are immunocompromised
  • Have had a bowel blockage in the past

Allergic Reactions to the Rotavirus Vaccine

Allergic reactions to the rotavirus vaccine are extremely rare. Seek emergency medical help if your child has any of the following symptoms after being vaccinated:


  • Swelling, especially in the face or throat
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heart rate

Costs and Insurance Coverage

Almost all health insurance plans cover the cost of CDC-recommended childhood vaccines, including the rotavirus vaccine. Contact your insurance provider to discuss coverage if you are worried about the potential cost. 

If you aren’t insured, your child’s rotavirus vaccine may be covered through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. Reach out to your local health agency with any questions about free and low-cost vaccines near you.

Summary

The rotavirus vaccine offers effective, safe protection against rotavirus and related complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that infants get a 2-3 dose series of the rotavirus vaccine, typically beginning at 2 months of age. Both of the rotavirus vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – RotaTeq and Rotarix– are delivered orally (through drops). 

Side effects of the rotavirus vaccine typically include fussiness, mild diarrhea, and vomiting. In very rare cases, a type of intestinal blockage known as intussusception may occur. Parents should seek medical help immediately if they notice any signs of stomach pain or discomfort in their baby about a week after receiving the first or second dose of the vaccine.

A Word from Verywell

The rotavirus vaccine provides safe, effective protection for your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about vaccinating your child against rotavirus.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do all newborns need to have a rotavirus vaccine?

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies should get 2-3 doses of the rotavirus vaccine starting at two months. The first dose should be given before your baby is 15 weeks old. All doses should be given before the eighth month of life.

  • Is your baby contagious after the rotavirus vaccine?

    The rotavirus vaccine is administered orally (by mouth). This means that there is a slight risk of getting rotavirus when you are changing your baby’s diaper up to 2 weeks after they’ve been vaccinated. This may pose health risks for people who are immunocompromised, such as anyone undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Wash your hands thoroughly after each diaper change after your baby receives the rotavirus vaccine.

  • How do you identify rotavirus poop?

    The first symptoms of rotavirus are typically fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Within a few days, people with rotavirus may experience watery, runny diarrhea multiple times per day. The stool may have a strong odor and could appear either brown or green.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Laura Dorwart
Laura Dorwart is a health journalist with particular interests in mental health, pregnancy-related conditions, and disability rights. She has published work in VICE, SELF, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Week, HuffPost, BuzzFeed Reader, Catapult, Pacific Standard, Health.com, Insider, Forbes.com, TalkPoverty, and many other outlets.