Babies will be vaccinated against rotavirus, confirms Department of Health

New vaccination programme to protect babies from diarrhoea bug will start in September 2013

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Today the Department of Health has confirmed that babies under 4 months will be vaccinated against rotavirus from September 2013.

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Rotavirus, which causes around 140,000 diarrhoea cases in under 5s every year, is already routinely vaccinated against in the US. Now, a new Department of Health campaign estimates it will half the number of vomiting and diarrhoea cases recorded every year.

The vaccination will be given orally, as two separate doses of liquid drops, and will be offered to children at 2-months-old, with the second dose at 3 months. The programme can’t start straight away due to demands on manufacturers to produce enough of the vaccine to meet the country’s demands.

Rotavius is a serious illness in the very young, usually beginning with diarrhoea and may be accompanied by vomiting, a temp of 38C or above and/or a tummy ache. While symptoms usually pass within five to seven days, the main risk to young children is severe dehydration. If you spot the signs of rotavirus it’s important you seek urgent medical advice and encourage your child to drink water. Your GP or pharmacist may suggest rehydration solutions.

Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation, said, “Many people think of diarrhoea as something that all children get and that you have to put up with. But there is a way to protect children from this. I’d encourage parents of all young children to accept this vaccine when the programme begins next year.”

The programme is set to cost £25 million a year. But, it’s estimated hospital stays will be lowered by 70%, meaning it’s a cost effective way to treat rotavirus, and lower pressure on hospitals, GPs and NHS Direct.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said, “It’s upsetting to see our children ill in hospital. Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea in young children and this vaccination will protect our children and reduce hospital admissions for serious rotavirus infection.”

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Find out more about rotavirus here

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