Universal introduction of rotavirus vaccines into childhood immunization programs is expected to substantially reduce the mortality from rotavirus gastroenteritis in developing countries (currently estimated at 702,000 annual deaths among children less than 5 years of age). In addition, it is expected to virtually eliminate hospitalizations due to rotavirus gastroenteritis in developed countries. Two rotavirus vaccines, Rotarix (GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Belgium) and RotaTeq (Merck & Co., USA) have recently completed Phase III clinical trials, each involving more than 60,000 children. Both vaccines appear safe with respect to intussusception, and are highly efficacious in preventing severe gastroenteritis due to rotavirus strains carrying predominantly serotype G1. The monovalent human rotavirus vaccine Rotarix, possessing serotype P1A,G1, is being first introduced into developing countries, whereas the pentavalent bovine-human reassortant rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq, comprising G-types G1, G2, G3, G4 and P-type P1A, will be initially introduced into the USA and Europe. Current disease burden estimates and economic justification will be required wherever the vaccines are introduced. Confirmation of the safety of both vaccines will require extensive postlicensure evaluation in which it will be key to assure adherence to administration of the first dose of either vaccine before 3 months of age. Assessment of the ability of each vaccine to provide protection against an increasingly diverse population of rotavirus strains will crucially depend on continuous global strain surveillance. Finally, efforts to improve existing rotavirus vaccines and to develop alternative vaccines should continue, so as to ensure that the prerotavirus vaccine era is consigned to a historical context.