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Rotavirus is a highly infectious virus that generally affects infants and newborns. It causes symptoms such as high fever, nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen as well as loose watery stools leading to diarrhoea. A severe infection can last up to more than a week and result in dehydration that requires hospitalization and can even lead to death. Infants are more susceptible since they easily touch a contaminated surface and put their hands in the mouth. The Rotavirus vaccine dose protects them from this deadly disease. Now, let us understand the vaccine in detail.

Why is the Rotavirus vaccine Given?

Rotavirus vaccine dose is given to children to safeguard them against Rotavirus which accounts for 37% of diarrhoea related deaths and 5% of deaths of children under the age of 5 years across the globe. One child out of every 10 worldwide is affected by diarrhoeal disease. (1) While Rotavirus vaccine cost was prohibitive to begin with, pharmaceutical companies have pledged reduction in vaccine prices in the last few years to expand access to the masses.

How does the Rotavirus vaccine Work?

The Rotavirus vaccine dose administered to a child contains a weakened live strain of rotavirus. When this Rota vaccine enters the body of a child, the immune system springs into action and manufactures antibodies against the virus. Once the antibodies are developed, immunity is built so that even if the child comes into contact with the Rotavirus later in life, he or she will not contract the virus.

How is the Rotavirus vaccine given?

Children are given an oral Rotavirus vaccine dose, instead of injecting them with it. The number of doses and the timing depends on the type of vaccine being administered in a country. For example in India, Rotavac, a vaccine developed jointly by Bharat Biotech and the Department of Biotechnology is given in three doses as per the Rotavirus vaccine schedule.

It is also the most affordable, given that the Rotavirus vaccine price is the lowest of all vaccines available worldwide. Rotarix in the U.S has a two-dose regimen at 2 and 4 months while Rotateq is given thrice additionally at 6 months as well according to the Rotavirus vaccine schedule.

Who Should Take the Rotavirus vaccine?

Babies affected by Rotavirus

  • Rota vaccine is primarily targeted at babies who are most affected by the Rotavirus in the initial few months after birth.

Children during their childhood

  • With the decrease in Rotavirus vaccine cost, most countries have integrated the Rotavirus vaccine schedule into their childhood vaccination programs to protect children from the life-threatening virus.

Newborn kids

  • Rota vaccine is administered at regular intervals in two or three doses to newborn children in the first few weeks after birth.

Who Should Not Take the Rotavirus vaccine?

If a child has an allergic reaction

  • If a child has had a mild or severe allergic reaction to the Rota vaccine given earlier or has a weak immune system due to a severe illness, the next Rotavirus vaccine dose should be postponed or not given altogether.

In case of the intake of steroids for any treatment

  • A child who is under treatment with steroids over the long term

Children diagnosed with cancer

  • Children diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment for the same with drugs and X-rays should also not take the Rota vaccine.

It is advisable to take these decisions in consultation with a qualified doctor.

Rotavirus Vaccine Schedule

Expensive Rotavirus vaccine price was a deterrent to inoculating the masses. In 2016, India became one of the few countries to bring down the Rotavirus vaccine cost. This was done by integrating Rotateq in the Universal Immunisation programme(UIP). Here is the Rotavirus vaccine schedule for infants as outlined under UIP by the government of India.

 

When given

Dosage

Route

At 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks after birth

5 drops

Oral

What Happens If I Miss a Dose?

Ideally, it is best to stick to the Rotavirus vaccine schedule for your child to ensure your child is protected. However, if an infant has missed the first Rotavirus vaccine dose at 6 weeks, it should be administered along with the oral Polio vaccine and Pentavalent vaccine till he or she is a year old. In case, the first Rotavirus vaccine dose is received by the child at 12 months, the next two doses should be spaced at intervals of 4 weeks each to complete the Rotavirus vaccine schedule.(2)

What are the Rotavirus Vaccine Ingredients?

India currently has 4 licensed Rota vaccines, all of which are safe and effective in combating rotavirus. The table below elucidates the vaccines in detail(3)


Name

Company

Vaccine Type

Composition

Made in India

Rotavac

Bharat Biotech

A monovalent vaccine with live weakened virus strain type 116E

Sucrose, sodium hydroxide, polysorbate 80, sodium hydroxide monobasic phosphate, sodium citrate and culture media.

Yes

Rotasil

Serum Institute of India

Live weakened Bovine human reassortant(G1, G2, G3, G4, G9 grown on vero cells or 105.6 FFU serotype

Sucrose, Glycine, Glutamine, Sodium bicarbonates and Eagle’s minimal essential medium with Hank’s salts

Yes

Rotavirus Vaccine Pros and Cons

Rotavirus vaccine uses far exceed its risks. Vaccination against Rotavirus has been found to have a lot of health benefits and a few rare instances of adverse reactions.

Pros

Builds immunity:

Rotavirus vaccine dose helps to make the body’s immune system stronger to fight against the virus. This can help prevent an infection if it occurs or make its impact less severe in those who have received the vaccine.

Prevents hospitalization:

94% to 96% of children who receive the Rota Vaccine do not require to be hospitalized because they are protected by illness caused due to the Rotavirus.(8) Earlier, they needed to be treated in a hospital once they showed severe symptoms of the disease.

Reduction in infant diarrheal deaths:

Infants who contracted the Rotavirus and were not vaccinated suffered from severe diarrhoea that could even result in their death. Strict adherence to the Rotavirus Vaccine schedule has lead to a significant drop in this number.

Cons:

Incidences of Intussusception:

Rotavirus vaccine dose has been found to be associated with intussusception, a mild intestinal disorder, in some clinical studies conducted in various countries. Intussusception leads to blockage of bowels in children who receive the vaccine.

Allergic reaction:

The first, second or third dose of the Rotavirus vaccine schedule could also lead to an allergic reaction in some children followed by wheezing, breathing problems, diarrhoea and other symptoms.

Rotavirus vaccine side effects

As you can gauge for yourself that despite the few disadvantages, Rotavirus vaccine uses for infants and children are much more. Nevertheless, let us take a look at some of the side-effects:

Allergy like symptoms:

Some children who are vaccinated may exhibit an allergic reaction. This is visible through physical symptoms such as an increased difficulty in breathing, high pulse rate, hives like rashes, wheezing and sudden paleness in the body.

Reaction to vaccine:

Rotavirus vaccine dose can also lead to the child being irritable followed by discharge of loose watery stools and nausea. This is usually due to a reaction to the vaccine dose in some children.

Conclusion

As a part of the National Health Mission, India administered around 52.998 million doses of the Rotavirus vaccine during 2019-20.(4) This has been largely possible due to the expanded reach thanks to the reduction in Rotavirus vaccine price and its inclusion in UIP.

However, despite the many Rotavirus vaccine uses, your child is liable to fall prey to any other illnesses that may require immediate hospitalisation. In such cases, having a Health Insurance policy in place can not only help you cover the costs of hospitalisation, but also get you the best treatment for the disease. This allows you to be financially prepared for any eventuality without compromising the health of your loved ones.   

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