A new vaccination programme which will protect all babies against a highly infectious bug that is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in children will begin today, officials said.
The rotavirus vaccination programme will start today and will protect more than 675,000 babies from the infection - which causes diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and dehydration, Public Health England said.
All babies aged between two and three months will be vaccinated against a highly infectious bug.
At present, almost every child will have had the viral infection by the age of five. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in infants and very young children.
Most children recover at home within a few days, but nearly one in five will need to see their doctor, and one in 10 of these (around 13,000 children every year) end up in hospital as a result of complications such as extreme dehydration.
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But experts predict that the move will lead to thousands of children being spared hospital stays and hundreds of thousands of GP visits.
Vaccination experts believe the immunisation programme will halve the number of vomiting and diarrhoea cases caused by rotavirus and there could be 70% fewer hospital stays as a result.
Children will receive the vaccine, to be given orally as two separate doses of liquid drops, as part of their routine vaccination programme.
Dr Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, 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."