Hepatitis B vaccination – all you need to know

The Hepatitis B vaccine is a vaccine that protects against a dangerous type of hepatitis called Hepatitis B which manifests as Jaundice and can go on to cause cancer. This year the theme of the World Hepatitis Day is to “Eliminate Hepatitis”. Find out all you need to know about the Hepatitis B vaccine to  stay safe from Hepatitis B from renowned pediatrician Dr Ravi Chander.

About Dr Ravi Chander

dr ravi chander MBBS,MD,(Paeds)

Dr Ravi Chander

Dr B Ravi Chander. MBBS, MD (Paeds) is pediatrician with over 30 years of professional experience as a pediatrician and an equal number of years as faculty in Pediatrics. He is currently Professor and Vice Principal at MVJ Medical college & Research Hospital, Bangalore. Dr Ravi Chander is instructor in various courses in Pediatrics and Examiner of MD/DCH for many universities.He has a special interest in Infectious and Respiratory Medicine.

Detailed article continues below the video

What is Jaundice?

A child is said to have jaundice when his/her skin and sclera (the white area of the eye) are yellowish. The yellow colour is due to excess bile in the blood. There can be many reasons for which the level of bile increases in the blood – but the commonest cause of this is a viral infection caused by the Hepatitis virus. There are various kinds of Hepatitis virus. Some of them are Hepatitis A virus, Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus and Hepatitis E virus. Although these viruses are completely different from each other – what they have in common is that they cause jaundice. So jaundice again can be called type A, B, C, E and so on.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. If it is caused by the Hepatitis A virus it is called Hepatitis A infection. If it is caused by the Hepatitis B virus it is called Hepatitis B infection and so on.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis is infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus which shows up as yellowing of the skin and eyes – which is then called jaundice.

The Hepatitis B virus enters our body through blood and blood products, or though infected needles. It is also transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy. It does not enter the body through unhygienic food and water like the other types of jaundice.

Also Read Should I give my child the Hib Vaccine and Meningococcal Vaccine?

Why is it important to vaccinate children against Hepatitis B virus?

Once a child is infected with Hepatitis B virus – in many cases the virus stays in his/her body for many years – sometimes even lifelong. When the virus remains in the body like this – the person carrying the virus is called carriers. And people who are carriers can develop a terrible cancer called Hepatocellular carcinoma.

The Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent infection by Hepatitis B virus and thus can prevent a dangerous cancer.

So the reason doctors ask children to take Hepatitis B vaccine is to prevent cancer of the liver.

Why is Hepatitis B vaccine given at birth?

Hepatitis B is a virus that can infect the baby from the moment he/she is born

  1. To prevent mother to child transmission   

    If the mother is a carrier she may not have any symptoms but may transmit the virus to her baby at birth. This can be prevented by giving the Hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth.

  2. To prevent accidental infection in hospitals and clinics

    Because Hepatitis B virus is transmitted by blood, needles and other body fluids, a baby has a chance of getting Hepatitis B infection immediately after birth – in the hospital or while getting various vaccines. And this is the reason doctors advise that the Hepatitis B vaccine be given at birth.

The Hepatitis A vaccine is not recommended until much later in life because babies are not going to eat or drink dirty food or dirty water until much later in life.

What is the schedule of the Hepatitis B vaccine?

The Hepatitis B vaccine is given as a three Dose schedule The first dose is the zero dose and it is given at birth. The second dose is given one month after birth. And the third dose is given at 6 months of age.

What if the Hepatitis B vaccine has not been given at birth?

Babies who may have missed taking the vaccine at birth must immediately get the vaccine – whatever their age may now be. The schedule followed for them is the same as for babies where the second vaccine is given 1 month after the first and the third dose is given 6 months after the first dose.

What are the side effects of the Hepatitis B vaccine?

The Hepatitis B vaccine is a relatively safe vaccine.

Some of the rare side effects of the Hepatitis B vaccine are pain, soreness, redness, swelling at the site of injection, fever, headache, tiredness, sore throat, nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and dizziness.

These side effects are rare and temporary but must be reported to the doctor if they happen.

How does the protection of the Hepatitis B vaccine last?

Studies have shown that the protection from the Hepatitis B vaccine lasts for 25-30 years

Can my child get Hepatitis B after vaccination?

The Hepatitis B vaccine has been proven to efficacious in 95% cases and the chances of a child getting Hepatitis B after vaccination is not very high

Should I give my child the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth?

The Hepatitis B vaccine is a relatively cheap vaccine .It is also a relatively safe vaccine. And in the present era we recommend that this vaccine be given to all children who are born in any country because it can prevent a serious disease and a cancer.

Since it has got a good safety profile and excellent protection I think all children should receive Hepatitis B vaccine.

Also Read What is BCG vaccination for Babies?

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