It’s hard to imagine putting your newborn through the pain of a prick shot, but a little stick early in life is an important first step in protecting the baby against a deadly disease. All babies should get the first shot of hepatitis B vaccine before they leave the hospital. This shot acts as a safety net, reducing the risk of getting the disease from moms or family members who may not know that they are infected with hepatitis B.
What is Hepatitis B ?
Hepatitis B is a serious contagious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus if enters the bloodstream, attacks the liver, and cause serious damage. When babies get infected, the virus usually remains in the body for a lifetime (this is called chronic hepatitis B). About 1 out of 4 infected babies will die of liver failure or liver cancer as adults.
Babies and children can get hepatitis B in the following ways:
At birth from their infected mother
Being bitten by an infected person
By touching open cuts or sores of an infected person
Through sharing toothbrushes or other personal items used by an infected person
From food that was chewed (for a baby) by an infected person
The virus can live on objects for 7 days or more. Even if you don’t see any blood, there could be virus on an object.
Is it serious ? Is there a cure for Hepatitis B ?
It can be life threatening. Although, there are several medicines to help people who have life-long hepatitis B virus infection, there is no medicine that “cures” it. The good news is that hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccination.
Why does my baby need a Hepatitis B shot at birth ?
Medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Family Physicians, The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologist, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that every baby get hepatitis B vaccine at birth, before leaving the hospital. It is important to vaccinate babies at birth so that they will be protected as early as possible from any exposure to the hepatitis B virus. A baby who gets infected with the hepatitis B virus during the first five years of life has a 15% to 25% risk for premature death from liver disease, including liver failure or liver cancer.
When a mother has hepatitis B the baby requires additional shot of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) in addition to normal vaccination. HBIG works best if it is given in first 12hrs of birth.
Schedule, Safety and side effects :
The recommended schedule consists of 3 doses at birth, 1 month and 6 months respectively. The vaccine is safe. The only side effect documented is mild fever (upto 101oF) and pain at the site of administration. Thus , it is highly recommended for all babies.