To the terrified mom on the aisle waiting for her child’s vac shot, congratulations! You are one step towards saving your child from the infectious bullies he will encounter along the way as he grows up. Well, we are aware of the controversy and confusion surrounding immunization nowadays. But let us clarify one thing: Vaccination is essential in every child as an effective way of preventing diseases. It induces immunity against viruses and bacteria to prevent kids from contracting debilitating illnesses later in their lives. One of the early doses that your child needs is the Hepatitis B vaccine.
The Hepatitis B vaccine is among the most important shots that a child should have. He should get the first dose within the first 12 hours of his life. The second dose is given at least four weeks apart, while the third is administered six months after the first dose. The Hepatitis B vaccine provides long-term protection against the contagious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus. Its side effect is usually mild, and it rarely or does not cause any adverse reactions at all.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is the Hepatitis B Vaccine?
- 2 When to get the Hepatitis B Vaccine for newborns?
- 3 The pros and cons of getting the Hepatitis B Vaccine
- 4 Interrupted Hepatitis B Vaccination
- 5 Hepatitis B Vaccination for children with infected mothers
- 6 Taking care of your baby after the vaccination
- 7 FAQs
- 8 Takeaway
What is the Hepatitis B Vaccine?
The Hepatitis B vaccine provides early protection from the virus that causes serious liver diseases. These diseases may include hepatitis, liver cancer, or scarring of the liver or commonly known to us as cirrhosis.
The vaccine, contrary to what other people believe, does not contain any live virus. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it only contains the surface protein of the virus. It is incorporated into yeast cells for it to reproduce. When injected into children, it activates their immune system and produces an immune response. This immune response will provide them with long-term protection against the mentioned health problems.
Note: Hepatitis B is an immunization requirement to travel into some countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is also a daycare and school admission requirement in most states.
When to get the Hepatitis B Vaccine for newborns?
The Hepatitis B vaccine is administered to a medically stable newborn as soon as possible after birth. So, by the time the child gets out of the hospital, he should already have his first dose. The HepB vaccine can be given along with other vaccines like BCG, Hepatitis A, MMR, or travel immunizations.
Hepatitis is a highly contagious disease, and there is a high tendency that babies can acquire it anywhere. Infants and children belong to the most vulnerable group and do not have the capability of fighting back pathogens. They may also catch the virus if their mothers are infected. Other family members and people who come in contact with the baby may also risk infecting them. Oddly, there are no early symptoms, thus, it is hard to tell who is infected until the disease becomes an acute infection. That is why babies need to get protection as early as possible.
Children infected with the Hepatitis B virus face a high risk of liver cancer or cirrhosis later in life.
The pros and cons of getting the Hepatitis B Vaccine
The Hepatitis B vaccine is one of the safest and most effective vaccines that your child can get. Considering the prevalence of liver cancer, the Hepatitis B vaccine is, in fact, one of your child’s earliest anti-cancer shots. Immunizing your child will not only protect him from the fatal disease, but will also help protect other people by preventing the spread of the virus.
I have come across this thread online one time. If you happen to live in a box, the online community refers to some parents as the Anti-Vaxxers. These parents, apparently, are debating whether to immunize their child or not, particularly with the Hepatitis B vaccine. According to some, there is a greater odd that the child will contract the disease from the vaccine instead. Others argue that the child is more likely to suffer from the adverse reaction after getting the shot than contracting the disease.
Of course, there are also other parents and medical professionals who refuted the issue. Children who do not receive their early dose have the highest risk of contracting the chronic disease. And if they do acquire it, these children, without any means of protection, also face the highest risk of death.
The Hepatitis B vaccine provides the child long-term protection from:
- Hepatitis B or inflammation of the liver
- Liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma
- Cirrhosis or permanent and severe scarring of the liver
- Death from the said diseases
The vaccine is safe and may induce some of these side effects or reactions in babies, which will go away after a short time:
- Local reaction (soreness in the injection site, redness, and swelling)
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Mild fever and headache
- Allergic reactions (very rare)
Interrupted Hepatitis B Vaccination
There are certain cases when, for some reason, parents do not stick to their child’s immunization schedule. As a result, the children may miss their doses and need some catch-up immunization. A child born in hospitals and other medical clinics will not miss the first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine. As mentioned, newborn infants will have it almost immediately after birth.
If the child missed his scheduled shot, the interrupted doses of the vaccine will be given as soon as possible. But there is no need to restart the series. Say if he missed the second dose, he gets only the second dose. The third dose will follow at least two months after it.
Hepatitis B vaccine is safe to get along with other shots that your child will be getting at the moment. Unlike some other vacs, the HepB does not have a booster shot or extra dose to increase its effectiveness. Your baby only needs the three-dose shot (or in some vaccine brands, four doses) to have him protected.
Hepatitis B Vaccination for children with infected mothers
The World Health Organization stands firm in its recommendation for infants to receive their Hepatitis B vaccine. It doesn’t matter if the mother is tested positive for Hepatitis B or not.
But what happens if the mom has a Hepatitis B infection? How about babies whose moms are at higher risk of Hepatitis B because of their certain jobs or lifestyle?
The newborn infant will still receive his first dose of the HepB vaccine. He will also undergo post vaccination serologic testing. It is to test the baby’s immunity and response to the vaccine. He will also receive an additional medicine called Hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIg). It will reinforce the HepB vaccine with antibodies to give the child a better immune resistance to the virus. The HBIg contains a large amount of Hepatitis B antibodies that comes from donated human blood.
If the post-testing shows a positive response after the third dose, it indicates that the baby is already protected. Otherwise, he will receive an additional three-dose series of the vaccine and another retesting.
Taking care of your baby after the vaccination
So, your baby got his important jab and added an update on his vaccination record. Sometimes, we have parents asking if the shot is “so strong it can cause fever.” Babies have different reactions to the vaccine that they get. Others will get a fever, while some others don’t.
Generally, parents should expect some mild reactions such as fever and fussiness after the shot. Here is how you can help your baby with normal immunization reactions:
- Offer more breastmilk or formula milk. It is okay if your baby seems to be eating less after his shot.
- Swaddling will offer your baby more comfort.
- Apply a cool and damp cloth on the injection site.
- Give your baby a sponge bath.
- You can offer acetaminophen to reduce fever.
Is Hepatitis A, B, and C the same?
Hepatitis A, B, and C are different types of liver infections. They are caused by three different viruses. Hepatitis A is short-term, while Hepatitis B and C viruses remain in the body and cause lifelong infections.
Will the HepB vaccine protect my baby from Hepatitis A and C also?
Hepatitis A and B have different vaccines. Your child will get the Hepatitis A vaccine around 12 to 23 months of his age. Sadly, there is no available vaccine for protection from Hepatitis C.
Is an extra dose or series of doses of Hepatitis B vaccine harmful?
No, extra doses of the vaccine do not cause any harm. It is okay to get an extra dose, but it is not necessary.
Will my baby get Hepatitis B from the vaccine?
Definitely, no. The vaccine does not contain any live virus or human blood products. It is basically just its surface protein gene and yeast.
The Hepatitis B vaccination offers long-term protection for babies against liver diseases caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It is one of the safest and effective vaccines that your child can get right after his birth.
The odds that the child will contract debilitating diseases in the future are very high. However, most serious illnesses are preventable through vaccinations.
Aside from life, this is a lifetime gift that you can give your baby as one of his long-term body defenses. Will you get your baby vaccinated with the HepB vaccine? If yes, tell us how it’ll go! We love to hear your stories.
Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She had experiences in handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also used to train in labor rooms and pediatric wards – helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.