Worldwide, rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in young infants. In addition to triggering severe watery diarrhea, rotavirus infection also frequently results in associated vomiting and fever in infants. In some instances, infection in young infants can lead to dehydration, hospitalization, and death. In the United States there are two highly effective vaccines (Rotarix and RotaTeq) which protect against rotavirus related illness. Either one of these vaccines is recommended to be administered along with other routine vaccinations as either a 2 or 3 dose series starting at 2 months of age. Since the introduction of rotavirus vaccination in 2006, rotavirus disease among infants and children has declined dramatically in the United States.
During the course of development of one of the two currently approved rotavirus vaccines, Dr. Chip Walter’s team assisted with evaluating the vaccine in clinical trials. More recently, as part of a NIAID funded study, his team helped to determine that schedules in which the two different vaccines are used sequentially are both safe and noninferior in immune response to a schedules in which a single formulation of licensed rotavirus vaccine is administered alone.