My wife recently took our infant daughter to her six-month check-up at the Via Christi Clinic where she was given a third dose of the vaccine for rotavirus. Infants are given the first two doses at two and fourth months of age, respectively.
Do you know what rotavirus is? I didn’t, so I asked my child’s pediatrician, Philip Newlin, MD.
According to Dr. Newlin, rotavirus is a highly contagious virus that causes an intense “stomach flu,” usually with severe diarrhea and significant dehydration. Treatment involves drinking plenty of fluids, such as pedialyte.
Having never heard much about rotavirus, I was shocked when he said that, annually, it was responsible for more than 600,000 doctor and emergency room visits; up to 70,000 hospitalizations, and up to 60 deaths in children younger than 5 years of age.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes that the best way to protect infants and children from rotavirus is with the vaccine. Shockingly, the CDC said that better sanitation and hygiene have not reduced rotavirus in the United States.
The vaccine has been in use since 2006 and by 2010, it reduced the number of babies and children needing emergency care and hospitalization for rotavirus by 85 percent, according to the the CDC.
Unlike most vaccines, the rotavirus vaccine is taken orally rather than as a shot, which surprised me.
Although it is generally well-tolerated, some children experience mild abdominal cramping or diarrhea. Those side effects are nothing compared to the real illness, Dr. Newlin said.
He also said allergic reactions are possible, but rare. Dr. Newlin has never seen one.
I am aware of the slight risk of an allergic reaction and the possibility of side effects, but as a parent, those don’t outweigh the need to have my child vaccinated to prevent serious illness. I’d rather prevent my child from suffering and keep her out of the emergency room.
Dr. Newlin offered these tips for managing discomfort your child may experience after receiving the vaccine — or any time he or she has an upset stomach:
- Gently massage your infant’s abdomen
- Laying your infant on his or her stomach over a warm towel to give some gentle pressure
- Give your infant Tylenol as directed by your doctor
- Offer small doses of pedialyte