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.

  • Rotavirus kills nearly half a million children under five each year and hospitalizes millions more.1,2
  • It is the most common cause of severe diarrhea and can also lead to vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and severe dehydration.
  • Every child is vulnerable, and rotavirus strikes everywhere.3 It is highly contagious and resilient. Rotavirus spreads easily from person to person through contaminated hands and objects, and can live on hands for hours and surfaces for days. Interventions — improvements in hygiene, sanitation and drinking water — that prevent other causes of diarrhea do not adequately prevent the spread of rotavirus.2
  • Without access to treatment for the severe dehydration it can cause, rotavirus can be a death sentence. Prevention can mean the difference between life and death.
  • Rotavirus vaccines provide the best protection against rotavirus.4 Rotavirus vaccines are already saving lives and improving health in the countries where they are in use.5
  • The World Health Organization recommends that rotavirus vaccines be introduced into every country’s national immunization program.6 Despite this, as of September 2015, only 79 countries have introduced rotavirus vaccines into their national immunization programs, and three have introduced regionally).7 We still need to get rotavirus vaccines to the children who need them most—those living in countries with the most diarrhea-related illnesses and deaths.
  • Rotavirus vaccines are a safe, cost-effective intervention for developing countries to prioritize now.8,9,10,11,12
  • Since 2006, 35 countries have introduced rotavirus vaccines with Gavi support. This represents tremendous progress, but there is more work to be done to reach all of the children who need these vaccines.
  • Millions of unnecessary illnesses and deaths can be prevented by accelerating access to rotavirus vaccines.



  1. Tate JE, Burton AH, Boschi-Pinto C, Steele D, et al. 2008 estimate of worldwide rotavirus-associated mortality in children younger than 5 years before the introduction of universal rotavirus vaccination programmes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet. Published online October 25, 2011.
  2. Parashar U, Hummelman E, Bresee J, et al.Global illness and deaths caused by rotavirus disease in children. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2003 May; 9(5):565–572.
  3. Chandran A,Fitzwater S, Zhen A, and SantoshamS. Prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants and children: rotavirus vaccine safety, efficacy, and potential impact of vaccines. Biologics. 2010; 4: 213–229.
  4. Rotavirus Vaccination page. CDC website. Available at:
  5. Patel MM, Steele D, Gentsch JR, et al. Real-world impact of rotavirus vaccination. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 2011;30 (Supplement 1):S1–S5.
  6. WHO. Meeting of the immunization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, April 2009 – conclusions and Recommendations. Weekly Epidemiological Record. 2009; 84(23):232-236.
  7. WHO. September 2015.
  8. Zaman K, Dang DA, Victor J, 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. The Lancet. 2010;376(9741):615-623.
  9. Armah G, Sow S, Breiman R, 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. The Lancet. 2010;376(9741):606-614.
  10. Madhi S, Cunliffe N, Steele D et al. Effect of human rotavirus vaccine on severe diarrhea in African infants. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2010;362(4):289-298.
  11. Patel M, Richardson V, et al. Intussusception risk and health benefits of rotavirus vaccination in Mexico and Brazil. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364(24):2283- 2292.
  12. Rheingans RD, Antil L, Dreibelbis R, et al. Economic costs of rotavirus gastroenteritis and cost-effectiveness of vaccination in developing countries. JID 2009;200 (Supplement 1):S16–S27.