The hepatitis B vaccine protects your child against the hepatitis B virus, which can lead to liver damage and, in severe cases, death.
Hepatitis B is generally considered an adult disease because it is transmitted through the blood of infected individuals, often through unsafe sex or IV drug use with a shared needle. Many people who are infected do not know it and do not show symptoms for many years.
Children can be exposed to hepatitis B at birth or from close contact with others who are infected. Transmission can occur by sharing a razor, a toothbrush or even a washcloth. That’s why many pediatricians recommend that your baby receive the hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital shortly after birth.
The hepatitis B vaccine was introduced in 1981 and became part of the recommended immunization schedule in the United States in 1991. It includes a series of three shots, one of which is given at birth. The other two vaccinations are given at your baby’s two-month and six-month pediatric checkups.
You will typically be screened for hepatitis B during your pregnancy. If you test positive, your baby should get an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin as well as the hepatitis B vaccine to provide short-term protection within 12 hours of birth.
Talk to you doctor if you have questions about newborn screenings and tests.
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