HBV or hepatitis B virus is the main culprit behind hepatitis B, an infection of the liver. HBV may lead to lifelong HBV infection and cause cirrhosis or permanent scarring of the liver or even liver cancer.
Since there are millions of people who are living with lifelong HBV infection, parents want to ensure that their children are protected, and this is where the hepatitis B vaccine comes in handy.
However, as a parent, it is important to know the pros and cons of hepatitis B vaccine on newborn to ensure that your little one is safe.
What is Hepatitis B Vaccine?
Hepatitis B vaccine, also called by its trade name Recombivax HB, is used for the prevention of HBV infection. This vaccine is administered in a total of three doses.
The initial dose can be taken on your chosen or preferred date. The next dose should be taken after a month. The final third dose should be taken 6 months after the initial dose.
The two-dose regimen can be followed for adolescents aged 11 to 15 years of age.
Why are Newborns Vaccinated for Hepatitis B?
If you are just like any parent, you might be wondering why doctors suggest vaccinating all children against HBV. While vaccinating babies of HBV-infected mothers and delaying vaccinating others is a strategy that can help prevent newborns from being afflicted with hepatitis B, it might not have the same level of effectiveness as universal immunization.
Health experts actually first this particular approach. They immunized select newborns during the first rollout of hepatitis B vaccines. Sadly, this was unsuccessful, with a lot of children still getting sick from HBV.
It was not until the beginning of the hepatitis B vaccine’s universal immunization program that the rate of the new infections of hepatitis B in children started to drop. This is why medical experts suggest vaccination against hepatitis B for all newborns.
All newborns, under this universal immunization program, are immunized against HBV even when their mothers have tested negative for hepatitis B infections.
Administering this birth dose of the vaccination can help prevent the development of this disease in babies whose mothers have hepatitis B infections but were unaware of it.
This also prevents the scenario where the mother knows about the hepatitis B infection, yet the baby missed the hepatitis B shot.
Such a scenario can happen if the mother forgets about her infection, doesn’t inform her doctor about her infection, or her hepatitis B test gets a false negative result.
One more reason to vaccinate all newborns against hepatitis B is that while many cases are known to be the result of exposure to bodily fluids and blood from a person with hepatitis B infection, approximately 30% to 40% of infections can also develop in people with no risk factors for this infection.
Pros of Hepatitis B Vaccine on Newborns
Giving a birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine to healthy newborns offer the following benefits:
It protects babies at risk for infection following the perinatal period.
It serves as a safety net for the prevention of perinatal infection among babies whose mothers are HBsAg-positive and have been unidentified.
It offers higher rates of timely completion of the series of hepatitis B vaccines for babies who are administered with the vaccine’s birth dose.
It lowers the risk of the baby getting hepatitis B later on in childhood.
The most important thing here is that young children usually don’t show any symptoms even if they have developed hepatitis B infections. However, it is still likely for them to develop chronic hepatitis issues. The majority of children who have hepatitis infection before reaching the age of 12 months old will likely suffer from chronic hepatitis.
Aside from this, there is also no treatment for chronic hepatitis B with only very few reliable cures. This is the reason why vaccinating infants against this infection has now become a routine aspect of the hospital care of newborns just like listening to their heart or checking their sense of hearing.
Possible Cons of Hepatitis B Vaccine on Newborns
Hepatitis B vaccine is considered extremely safe, with most babies who get this vaccine not having any issues. However, just like other medications, with vaccines included, there is always the chance of side effects.
As for babies who suffer from side effects, these are often mild, such as soreness at the site of the infection and probably a low-grade fever. Reported serious side effects or allergic reactions to the vaccine are very rare. Some of the commonly reported mild adverse vaccine reactions in all people include headache, swelling, redness or erythema, pain, and fever.
However, it is only normal for most parents to worry regarding the vaccine, with all the conflicting information and data out there. For example, there are parents who worry that vaccines such as hepatitis B will make it likely for their child to develop neurological problems such as ADHD or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, multiple sclerosis, and autism. However, there is no irrefutable evidence that it can occur.
Experts also point out that the hepatitis B vaccine’s safety has undergone extensive study and that there is no evidence of a causal association between neonatal death or sepsis and the vaccine. Similarly, they also indicate that there are no connections between the hepatitis B vaccine and autoimmune disorders, Bell’s palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, anaphylaxis, hemolytic anemia, hearing loss, optic neuritis, and other types of chronic illnesses. These possibilities have undergone thorough research through data analysis.
The Bottom Line
When you are a new parent, the mere thought of getting your newborn vaccinated can feel quite overwhelming because the last thing you want is for your baby to experience pain. However, if you remind yourself that you are doing this to protect your baby and the discomfort is just temporary, you can overcome this experience with less stress.
While there might be pros and cons of hepatitis B vaccine on newborn, at the end of the day, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.