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Canadian Paediatric Society

Canadian Paediatric Society recommends rotavirus vaccination for all babies

Oct 4 2010

OTTAWA - All Canadian babies should be vaccinated against rotavirus, according to a new statement by the Canadian Paediatric Society. The CPS is also calling for public funding of the vaccine, which is not currently covered by provincial or territorial health plans.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of serious diarrhea in babies and young children, and children under 2 years are most at risk of getting very sick. About 14 per cent of children with the virus will see a health professional or visit a hospital.

“At present, more than 500 to 600 children need to be hospitalized annually,” said Dr. Robert Bortolussi, chair of the CPS Infectious Disease and Immunization Committee. “Worldwide, rotavirus is thought to cause up to a million deaths in infants annually, almost all in the developing countries.”

The virus, which spreads directly (e.g., from one person to another) and indirectly (e.g., by sharing toys), usually lasts three to eight days and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Rotavirus outbreaks in Canada usually occur between February and May. Serious illness can cause dehydration.

“Almost every child will develop diarrhea caused by rotavirus at some time in their life, with symptoms of fever, vomiting and diarrhea,” said Dr. Bortolussi. “The highest risk for severe illness occurs in the first two years of life.”

Two rotavirus vaccines are currently approved for use in Canada, and both are effective at reducing the incidence and seriousness of infection. The vaccine is given orally in two or three doses, starting at 6 weeks of age and ending no later than 8 months. It can be given to babies at the same time as other regular immunizations.

“Both vaccine preparations are about 98 per cent effective in preventing severe illness that might otherwise lead to hospitalization,” said Dr. Bortolussi. “The vaccine is very safe.”

To access the full statement, visit: Recommendations for the use of rotavirus vaccines in infants.

About the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: Nov 13 2012