about the author
Fatima Kamalia M.D.
is a board certified pediatrician affiliated with the Hospital for Sick Children and York Central Hospital, and is a partner at Thornhill Pediatrics.

Until recently, parents had to resign themselves to children throwing up or having diarrhea whenever a bout of "stomach flu" made the rounds through families or schools. Fortunately, there is now an option to prevent some cases of this messy and sometimes serious medical condition. A new vaccine, called RotateqTM, can help protect your child against one of the most common causes of childhood gastroenteritis. Unfortunately, the RotateqTM is not yet available under Ontario's Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), but is covered by most private medical insurance plans.

Rotavirus infects the stomach and intestines of children and adults causing inflammation, cramping and fever, commonly referred to as the "stomach flu". Nearly all children will experience a Rotavirus infection in their first few years of life, sometimes repeatedly. The most common symptoms include vomiting and up to 10 or 20 episodes of diarrhea per day; dehydration, which may require intra-venous rehydration and hospitalization, is a frequent complication in children and the elderly. About one fifth of all cases of gastroenteritis in children are caused by Rotavirus, and nearly a third of these are serious enough to require medical attention for the infection. Children between 6 and 24 months of age are at the highest risk of complications from this infection.

The RotateqTM vaccine provides a means to build up your child's immunity so that the infection can be fought off more effectively, and helps to protect against these adverse outcomes. It prevents nearly 96% of serious complications, and nearly three-quarters of stomach-flu-like illnesses, due to Rotavirus.

Unlike many other immunizations your child may be receiving, RotateqTM is not an injection, but is a liquid that they can simply drink. It contains several live attenuated (weakened) strains of the Rotavirus, which effectively train your child's body to fight off the Rotavirus that they are exposed to in their day to day lives. Immunization with Rotateq can be given alongside other regular childhood vaccines at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.

With over 70,000 children involved in studies with RotateqTM, the vaccine is considered safe, with infrequent and mild reactions, such as diarrhea or sore throat. In these studies, Rotateq was not associated with intussusception, a bowel problem that was found with an older attempted vaccine (RotashieldTM). However it is still recommended that children with immune compromise (due to illness or medications), or those with a significant digestive tract illness, should not receive any live vaccines like RotateqTM.

At your child's next scheduled visit, talk to your doctor about the appropriateness of Rotateq, and other immunization options.

  • RotateqTM is a registered trademark of Merck Frosst Canada Ltd.
  • RotarixTM is a registered trademark of GlaxoSmithKline Inc.
  • RotashieldTM is a registered trademark of Wyeth.
  1. Toronto Public Health, fact sheet on Rotavirus, November 2010.
  2. Rotateq Product Monograph, Merck Frosst, 2009.
  3. "Withdrawal of Rotashield vaccine recommendation." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review 48(43):1007, Centre for Disease Control, November 05, 1999.
  4. "Endorsed important safety information on Rotarix", Health Canada, Vaccine Safety Section, July 2010.