The new vaccination programme will begin in September 2013 and is expected to halve the number of vomiting and diarrhoea cases caused by rotavirus.
Based on the experience of the United States where rotavirus is already part of routine immunisation schemes, health officials expect to see 70% fewer rotavirus-related hospital stays in children under five.
At present, rotavirus causes around 140,000 annual cases of diarrhoea in children aged five years or under, almost one in 10 of which are hospitalised.
Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation, said that for many, the symptoms of rotavirus can be prevented and he encouraged parents to avail themselves of the new programme.
“Rotavirus spreads very easily and affects around 140,000 children every year, causing distress for them and their families. Many people think of diarrhoea as something that all children get and that you have to put up with. But there is a way to protect children from this. I’d encourage all parents of young children to accept this vaccine when the programme begins next year,” Prof Salisbury said.
The decision followed an expert report by the UKs Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation which concluded that the health benefit of vaccination is a cost-effective way of protecting children against rotavirus.
His words were echoed by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies. “It is upsetting to see our children ill in hospital. Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea in young children and this vaccine will protect our children and reduce hospital admissions for serious rotavirus infection,” she said in a statement.