The rotavirus vaccine is used to protect against rotavirus, a virus that can cause severe diarrhea in young children. It comes in two forms; one (Rotarix) is given as two doses, and the other (RotaTeq) requires three doses. The vaccine is given by mouth and is often part of a child's routine childhood vaccination schedule.
What Is the Rotavirus Vaccine?
The rotavirus vaccine (Rotarix®, RotaTeq®) is a childhood vaccine approved to prevent rotavirus, a common but potentially serious childhood infection that causes severe diarrhea, sometimes resulting in hospitalization (and rarely, in death).
In March 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that Rotarix not be used, at least temporarily, since DNA from porcine circovirus type 1 (PCV1) has been found in the vaccine. This means that DNA from a virus found in pigs has been found in the vaccine. However, in May 2010, the FDA announced that it is safe to begin using Rotarix again, since PCV1 poses no known health risks to humans.
No similar problems have been found with RotaTeq.
(Click What Is the Rotavirus Vaccine Used For? for more information on what the medication is used for, including possible off-label uses.)
Currently Marketed Rotavirus Vaccines
At this time, there are two different rotavirus vaccines available. Key differences between the two include:
- Rotarix is given as two doses, while RotaTeq requires three doses.
- The Rotarix two-dose series can be completed before the RotaTeq three-dose series.
- Although both vaccines are given by mouth, RotaTeq comes in ready-to-use tubes, while Rotarix requires a little preparation by the healthcare provider (to mix it).
- RotaTeq was approved before Rotarix, so most healthcare providers have more experience with RotaTeq.
- Children with latex allergies should not take Rotarix; this is not a problem with RotaTeq.
- Rotarix protects against the G1, G3, G4, and G9 types of rotavirus, while RotaTeq protects against the G1, G2, G3, and G4 types. As expected, the manufacturers of both vaccines argue that their particular vaccine provides better protection, due to these differences in protection against the various types of rotavirus.
Both of the currently available rotavirus vaccines are also different from RotaShield®, a previously available vaccine that was withdrawn from the market due to the risk of intussusception, a serious side effect. The currently available rotavirus vaccines do not appear to increase the risk of intussusception.