Each year rotavirus gastoenteritis episodes in young children cause more than 500,000 deaths and 2.4 million hospital adminissions worldwide. Vaccine development became a priority when improved personal hygiene and living standards failed to significantly reduce this disease burden. Rotavirus vaccines were developed mimicking natural immunity by protecting against severe gastroenteritis in young children, which would otherwise lead to health-care attendance, hospitalisation or even death. Licensed rotavirus vaccines appear safe and are well-tolerated. In high and middle-income countries they provide 80-100% protection against severe disease and 70-80% protection against rotavirus gastroenteritis of any severity, depending upon the population studied. However, rotavirus vaccines remain to be fully evaluated in low-income countries where reduced immunogenicity of oral vaccines, greater strain diversity and difficulties reaching target populations might decrease immunisation programme performance. Nevertheless, if these challenges are met, rotavirus vaccines should help reduce the 5% of all childhood deaths attributable to rotavirus gastroenteritis.