The Department of Health has announced that babies will be offered vaccinations against the rotavirus infection from September 2013.

The vaccine will be given in two doses, after two and three months.

Although the rotavirus infection is rarely fatal in the UK, it causes tens of thousands of cases of vomiting and diarrhoea each year and is very infectious. The under-5s account for around 140,000 cases each year, with around 14,000 of these requiring hospital treatment.

The vaccination will be offered in an attempt to reduce the number of admissions - other countries, such as the US, have recorded reduced hospital admissions and experts believe vaccinating British children will result in a 70% reduction.

Dr David Elliman, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the vaccine would prevent a "huge amount of suffering" and save the NHS money.

"This vaccine will mean less pressure both on distressed parents who have to care for their children and of course the GPs and hospital services who are treating them," he said.

Prof David Salisbury, the director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said the virus "spreads very easily" and causes distress for children and 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."

He added the vaccine - which is administered in drops - had been "used very extensively" with "huge trials demonstrating both its safety and its effectiveness".

It is expected to cost £25m a year to vaccinate 840,000 children a year. However, the government believes cutting the number of cases will save the NHS £20m.

Posted by Penny Hosie