Rotavirus: The Role of the Midwife

Rotavirus: The Role of the Midwife

Midwives have an important role with mothers and fathers to introduce them to areas of child health, such as immunisation. This is particularly so for vaccines like rotavirus vaccine which must be given early. Midwives can support parents by providing information on rotavirus vaccine, giving parents more time to discuss this option.

Rotavirus commonly causes young babies and children to experience severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Over 90% of children will have been infected by 3 years of age. The virus is responsible for 4,500 children going to hospital in NZ every year and approximately 10,000 GP consultations. Rotavirus is spread via the faecal-oral route and it is very contagious because it can survive for a long time on surfaces like bench tops and toys, despite thorough cleaning.

Young babies and children quickly become very unwell from rotavirus because they don’t cope with losing body fluids rapidly through the vomiting and runny diarrhoea. This can cause dehydration, and the younger the child is, the faster the illness can turn serious.  Severe dehydration can lead to the child staying in hospital on intravenous fluids to help replace the fluid they have lost or ultimately can cause death.

The most effective way to prevent rotavirus infections is through vaccination because rotavirus cannot be controlled by good hygiene alone. The rotavirus vaccine is 90% effective at preventing serious rotavirus illness and 80% effective at preventing all rotavirus illness. Choosing to vaccinate reduces the chances of hospital stays, time off work for the parent, or the child suffering from severe dehydration. Any immunity transferred to newborns against rotavirus from breast milk appears to delay infection rather than provide lasting protection.

Rotavirus vaccine is an oral vaccine and babies receive two doses. Parents need to know about this vaccine early on as the first dose must be given to their baby by 14 weeks of age. The vaccine can be given at the same time as other childhood vaccinations.   Side effects may include mild symptoms like irritability, diarrhoea, and vomiting and serious side effects are rare.

The rotavirus vaccine is used on the immunisation schedule in many countries, such as Australia and the US. In NZ, rotavirus vaccination is recommended, but not funded, by the Ministry of Health. Parents can purchase the vaccine through their family doctors. If you would like further information you can contact the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466863),  or visit

This is a paid advertorial, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, Auckland NZ. The views of the author are not necessarily those of the publisher. Rotavirus vaccine is a prescription medicine.  Please see your doctor to discuss the benefits and possible risks.


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