Friday, August 29, 2014

Hepatitis B/Your first vaccination opportunity

Deciding whether or not to vaccinate your child is a decision that some parents struggle with.

It can be hard to find a balanced discussion. The internet is full of one sided rhetoric (both pro vaccine and the anti vaccine factions are guilty of this). Can vaccinations have some side effects? Absolutely. Do they always work? Of course not. That being said, I personally believe that vaccinations save lives and that the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the concerns.

Our office puts an enormous amount of thought into the vaccination schedule that we follow.
We don't just blindly follow the rules. In past years there were times that we were doing our schedule a little differently than other offices as we tried to minimize the amount of shots during one visit.
When the Pentacel combination vaccine was introduced, our schedule finally shifted around and now we follow the standard immunization recommendations. It appears that Dr. Sears seems comfortable with this vaccine schedule as well; so many of the parents who were trying to spread things around no longer feel the need to do so.

The first immunization that is given to many babies is the Hepatitis B vaccine. There are different forms of Hepatitis. The B strain is mostly contracted through blood exposure or sexual activity.
Hepatitis B is no joke. It is 100 times more contagious than HIV. It can lead to liver cancer and death. In Britain where babies currently do not routinely get the Hep B at birth, the cases of Hepatitis B have doubled in the last decade. The Hepatitis B vaccine was approved in 1981 and has over 30 years of proven safety. It was actually the first cancer preventing vaccine.

In this country, most hospitals will automatically give this within a day or so of birth unless you tell them otherwise. If mom is Hepatitis B positive (It is important to know your Hepatitis B status, check with your OB if you don't) it is essential for the baby to get the protection as soon as possible.
If mom is not a Hepatitis B carrier, then I am perfectly comfortable if you decide to hold off from getting it before you leave the hospital.  The official recommendation is to get that first one over with in the hospital and there is no down side, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with things and want a bit more time before jumping into the immunization program, I have no issues with my patients delaying that hospital dose, but don't delay too long. I would suggest getting started with it at the one month visit if you put off that immediate new-born dose.

Is your young child high risk? Probably not. But before you decide to waive the protection altogether please consider this. Hepatitis B can survive outside of the body for at least several hours.
I know of more than one case in this city where an unsuspecting child found a syringe in a playground. Living in an urban environment means it is not zero risk for exposure. Currently most day-cares and schools require the series before admission so most likely (unless you sign a vaccine waiver) your child will get need to get the Hep B series within the first few years of life.  It is much easier on your child to get this shot added to the rounds of shots that we give that first year of life. A few extra  shots makes no difference to them. Once they are over 18 months they are much more aware of every poke and trust me, you will be glad that you got these over with. Certainly all children should get the Hepatitis B series before they are teenagers, even if you sign a waiver to delay it when they are young. This vaccination is a three part series.

The Hepatitis vaccine seems to be quite safe and I usually do not see any obvious vaccine reaction to it. For more information, the CDC Hepatitis B vaccine information sheet can be viewed at the following link:

1 comment:

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