From today around 675,000 babies a year in England will be offered a new vaccination to protect them against rotavirus.
Rotavirus infection is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhoea) in children under five. Nearly every child will develop rotavirus gastroenteritis by five years of age. Rotavirus gastroenteritis is responsible for 130,000 visits to the GP and 13,000 hospitalisations for dehydration every year.
Dr Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England (PHE), said: "Rotavirus is a highly infectious and unpleasant illness that affects thousands of young children each year. While most recover within a few days, nearly one in five will need to see their doctor, and one in 10 will end up in hospital as a result.
Although good hygiene measures can help prevent spread of the disease, the best way to protect your baby from catching rotavirus is to get them vaccinated.
The new vaccine will provide protection to those young babies who are most vulnerable to complications arising from rotavirus. From now on parents will be offered this protection alongside their baby's other childhood vaccinations."
The rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, will be given orally to babies at two and three months of age. It is hoped the vaccine will halve the number of rotavirus cases each year and lead to 70% fewer hospital stays.
The introduction of the rotavirus vaccine is one of a number of new or amended vaccination programmes being introduced by PHE this year, in partnership with the Department of Health and NHS England. Additional protection against shingles, meningococcal group C and flu will be introduced later this year.