If you are expecting a new baby this year, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging you to give your little one the best start by protecting them against the diarrhoea and vomiting bug rotavirus.
Since last year, the routine childhood immunisation schedule has included the rotavirus vaccine to help protect babies against the common and potentially serious infection rotavirus.
Rotavirus is an infection of the lower gut which causes vomiting and diarrhoea in thousands of young babies every year. Most babies recover at home, but in some cases they can become dehydrated and may need hospital treatment. In Northern Ireland this infection is responsible for around 4,000 GP visits and 400 hospitalisations every year in children under five years.
Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Uptake figures have been very positive so far, with over 90% of babies having the vaccine.
“Rotavirus spreads easily through hand-to-mouth contact and can be picked up from surfaces such as toys, hands or dirty nappies. It can also be spread through the air. Washing hands and keeping surfaces clean can help reduce the spread of the virus but will never completely stop it. Vaccination is a much more effective way to help protect infants from getting infected.”
Babies attending for vaccination will be offered the vaccine as part of their two- and three-month vaccination appointments with their local GP. The vaccine will be administered as a droplet directly into the baby’s mouth.
Dr Smithson continued: “The vaccine will be given to babies at their two- and three-month appointments. The first dose cannot be given to babies 15 weeks or over. The second dose should be given four weeks after the first dosage and must be before 24 weeks of age. It is therefore important that babies attend their appointments at the correct time.”
For further information on the rotavirus vaccine see the parents’ guide Immunisation for babies up to a year old available at www.bit.ly/babyvacc or ask your GP or health visitor.