Rotavirus vaccines: safety, efficacy and public health impact


Professor Jim Gray, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Specialist Virology Centre, Microbiology Department, NRP Innovation Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7GJ, UK.
(fax: 01603 458448; e-mail:


Abstract.  Gray J (Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich, UK). Rotavirus vaccines: safety, efficacy and public health impact (Foresight). J Intern Med 2011; 270: 206–214.

Rotaviruses are the cause of acute gastroenteritis, and disease is widespread amongst infants and young children throughout the world. Also, rotavirus is associated with significant mortality in developing countries with more than 500 000 children dying each year as a result of the severe dehydration associated with rotavirus disease. Efforts have been ongoing for more than 30 years to develop a safe and effective rotavirus vaccine. Currently, two vaccines, RotaRix and RotaTeq, have been licensed for use in many countries throughout the world following comprehensive safety and efficiency trials. Monitoring their effectiveness after licensure has confirmed that their incorporation into early childhood vaccination schedules can significantly prevent severe rotavirus diarrhoea, which would have resulted in hospitalizations, emergency room visits or increased diarrhoea-related mortality. Although the efficacy of both vaccines is lower at approximately 40–59% in developing countries, their use could significantly reduce the mortality associated with rotavirus disease that is concentrated in these countries.