Newborn Hepatitis B Vaccine Recommended within One Day of Birth

Completing HepB vaccine series results in protective antibody in 98% of full-term infants

Newborn infants who weigh at least 4.4 pounds should receive their first dose of hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine within the first 24 hours of life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

For infants born to women whose hepatitis B status is positive or unknown, the birth dose of the vaccine provides a "critical safety net," the AAP said.

The vaccine has been reported to be 75% to 95% effective at preventing perinatal transmission of HepB, if it is administered within 24 hours of birth.

The number of new cases of HepB infection has decreased by more than 90% since the introduction of hepatitis B immunization in 1982.

Unfortunately, about 1,000 U.S. infants acquire HepB perinatally each year. These infants face up to a 90% chance of chronic HepB infection.

If untreated, about 25% of these infants will die of hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cirrhosis.

Completing a three- or four-dose series of HepB vaccine produces protective antibody concentrations in 98% of healthy full-term infants.

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Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected.

Additionally, the pediatric hepatitis B vaccine Recombivax HB will not be available until early 2018, according to Merck, the manufacturer. Merck said demand around the world and manufacturing process updates caused the shortage of Recombivax HB in both pediatric and adult formulations.

Fortunately, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has reported an adequate supply of Engerix-B hepatitis B vaccine to make up for the shortage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC, these two monovalent vaccines are interchangeable.

“They can be used for the birth dose or any subsequent dose to finish the series. If you start with one, you can finish the series with the other,” said Scot B. Moore, M.D., FAAP, AAP Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine liaison to the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides current Hep B vaccine prices and general information.

Most pharmacies offer various hepatitis vaccines.