Dear Dr Ombeva,
I took my nine month-old son for immunisation, and the nurse only gave him an injection for measles vaccine. He missed the rotavirus vaccine for diarrhoea and I wanted him to receive it too. But the nurse declined, and said the boy is already beyond the age for the vaccine. Do you agree with her or should I look for another place to get the vaccine. Thank you.
Rotavirus is a contagious virus that can cause gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) mostly in infants and young children. Symptoms include severe watery diarrhoea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. The child can become severely dehydrated, requiring to be hospitalised and can even die.
Since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, hospitalisations and emergency visits for rotavirus have dropped dramatically. Two brands of rotavirus vaccines are available. Your baby will get either 2 or 3 doses, depending on which vaccine is used. In Kenya, children under the age of six get first dose at six weeks and second at ten weeks. Rotavirus vaccine may safely be given at the same time as other vaccines.
Children older than six months have already been exposed to the virus, since it is very commonly found in the environment, and as such may not add much benefit by getting the vaccine. This, I think, is the reason the nurse did not give the vaccine to your child. Generally, a child must get the first dose of rotavirus vaccine before 15 weeks of age, and the last by age 8 months.
Almost all babies who get rotavirus vaccine will be protected from severe rotavirus diarrhoea. And most of these babies will not get rotavirus diarrhoea at all, though the vaccine will not prevent diarrhoea or vomiting caused by other germs.
It is recommended that a baby who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a dose of rotavirus vaccine; a baby who has a severe allergy to any part of rotavirus vaccine; a baby with “severe combined immunodeficiency” (SCID) or a baby who has had a type of bowel blockage called “intussusception” should not get rotavirus vaccine.
Babies who are mildly ill can get the vaccine. Babies who are moderately or severely ill (including moderate or severe diarrhoea or vomiting) should wait until they recover before they get the vaccine.
— Dr Ombeva Malande is a child health expert
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