Rotavirus Facts

Diarrhea sickens and kills more children than virtually any other illness.

Rotavirus is the primary cause of diarrhea-related illnesses and death, but can be prevented through vaccination. Vaccines are critical because improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene alone do not adequately prevent the spread of rotavirus.

The Rotavirus Organization of Technical Allies (ROTA Council) is a dedicated team of technical experts from around the world working to get rotavirus vaccines to the children who need them most. This is critical because rotavirus continues to cause nearly half million unnecessary deaths and millions of hospitalizations around the world each year.

  • Diarrhea is one of the world’s leading killers of children, and rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea.1 Rotavirus kills about 200,000 children each year and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands more.2,3
  • Every child is vulnerable, and rotavirus strikes everywhere.4 It is highly contagious and resilient. Interventions that prevent other forms of diarrhea—such as improvements in hygiene, sanitation and drinking water—do not adequately prevent the spread of rotavirus.
  • Without access to treatment for the dehydration it can cause, rotavirus can be a death sentence.
  • Vaccination is the best way to protect children from rotavirus.5 Rotavirus vaccines are already saving lives and improving health in the countries where they are in use, with countries reporting swift and significant reductions in cases of severe diarrhea.6,7
  • Rotavirus vaccines are a safe, cost-effective solution for developing countries to prioritize now.8-15
  • The World Health Organization recommends that rotavirus vaccines be introduced into every country’s national immunization program.7,9-11,16-18 Despite this, as of September 2016, only 82 countries have introduced rotavirus vaccines into their national immunization programs, and 6 countries have introduced rotavirus vaccines sub-nationally.19
  • More than 90% of rotavirus deaths occur in low-income countries in Asia and Africa, where vaccination is not in widespread use.1,2 Gavi and its partners have supported more than 30 low-income countries in introducing rotavirus vaccines. This represents tremendous progress, but there is more work to be done to reach all of the children who need these vaccines.
  • The need is also great in middle-income countries where rotavirus and diarrheal disease, more broadly, are major causes of child illness and hospitalizations.
  • Hundreds of thousands of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths can be prevented through rotavirus vaccination.13

Download the ROTA Council rotavirus fact sheet


  1. Kotloff KL, et al. Burden and aetiology of diarrhoeal disease in infants and young children in developing countries (the Global Enteric Multicenter Study, GEMS): a prospective, case-control study. Lancet. 2013;382(9888):209-222.
  2. Tate JE, Burton AH, et al, for the WHO Coordinated Global Rotavirus Surveillance Network. Global, regional, and national estimates of rotavirus mortality in children <5 years of age, 2000-2013. Clin Inf Dis. 2016;62(S2):S96–105.
  3. Parashar U, et al. Global illness and deaths caused by rotavirus disease in children. Emerg Inf Dis. 2003 May; 9(5):565–572.
  4. Chandran A, et al. Prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants and children: rotavirus vaccine safety, efficacy, and potential impact of vaccines. Biologics. 2010; 4: 213–229.
  5. Rotavirus Vaccination page. CDC website. Available at:
  6. Patel MM, et al. Real-world impact of rotavirus vaccination. Ped Inf Dis J. 2011;30 (Supplement 1):S1–S5.
  7. Patel MM, et al. Effectiveness of monovalent rotavirus vaccine in Bolivia: case-control study. BMJ. 2013;346:f3726.
  8. Zaman K, et al. Efficacy of pentavalent rotavirus vaccine against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants in developing countries in Asia: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2010;376(9741):615-623.
  9. Armah G, et al. Efficacy of pentavalent human-bovine reassortant rotavirus vaccine against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in sub-Saharan Africa: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2010;376(9741):606-614.
  10. Madhi S, et al. Effect of human rotavirus vaccine on severe diarrhea in African infants. NEJM. 2010;362(4):289-298.
  11. Patel M, et al. Intussusception risk and health benefits of rotavirus vaccination in Mexico and Brazil. NEJM. 2011;364(24):2283- 2292.
  12. Rheingans RD, et al. Economic costs of rotavirus gastroenteritis and cost-effectiveness of vaccination in developing countries. JID 2009;200 (Supplement 1):S16–S27.
  13. Atherly DE, et al. Projected health and economic impact of rotavirus vaccination in GAVI-eligible countries: 2011-2030. Vaccine. 2012;30(Suppl1):A7-A14
  14. Rheingans R, et al. Estimated impact and cost-effectiveness of rotavirus vaccination in India: Effects of geographic and economic disparities. Vaccine, 2014;32, (Suppl1)A140-A150.
  15. Leshem E, et al. Rotavirus vaccines and health care utilization for diarrhea in the United States (2007-2011). Pediatrics. 2014:134(1):15-23.
  16. WHO. Meeting of the immunization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, April 2009 – Conclusions and Recommendations. Wkly Epi Rec. 2009; 84(23):232-236.
  17. Patel MM, et al. Fulfilling the promise of rotavirus vaccines: how far have we come since licensure? Lancet Inf Dis. Jul 2012;12(7):561-570.
  18. Ruiz-Palacios GM, et al. Safety and efficacy of an attenuated vaccine against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis. NEJM. 2006; 354(1): 11-22.
  19. International Vaccine Access Center, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. VIEW-hub. Accessed 2 Nov 2016. Available at