I know it has been a couple weeks, but I am finally back with another vaccine post. Sorry for the delay. The great snow blizzard of 2010 distracted me. :) Ok, so here we go! If you have missed the other vaccine posts, feel free to click on one or all of the links below.
***Disclaimer: The information about vaccines in this post came from The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears. I am in the process of reading the book and I am simply sharing as I learn. I strongly recommend doing your own research before deciding if vaccines are right for your child.***
Hep B is a sexually transmitted virus that causes liver damage and sometimes liver failure. It can be transmitted through unprotected sex, it can be passed on by the sharing of IV drug needles, the use of improperly sterilized tattoo needles, or an accidental stick with an infected needle. It can also be acquired through a blood transfusion.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.
Hep B virus...
- can survive outside a person for one week (on a toothbrush, razor etc...).
- can be passed from an infected mother to her baby during the birthing process
- is diagnosed with a blood test
- is very rare in infants and children. It occurs mainly in adults.
- is extremely serious. About 90% of babies who catch hep B during birth become chronically infected. They may not show symptoms for many years or decades, but about 20% will develop liver cancer or liver failure eventually.
- is not treatable. In adults it passes without much consequence. For kids it is more likely to cause long term problems.
- is given in three doses. Birth, two months and six months.
- the vaccine is given moments after birth, but the only babies who need this birth dose are those born to a mom with hep B. Most babies can safely wait until they are two months old.
(Note: Some hospitals give the hep B vaccine to babies without discussing it with the parents first. If you want to delay the shot, you need to make sure you communicate that to the hospital staff.)
- both brands of the vaccine used to contain mercury, but now they are both 100% mercury free.
- controversial ingredients include aluminum and formaldehyde.
- side effects are pretty standard (blog post on standard side effects coming soon).
- other reactions that have been reported (but are very rare) include: Severe, life-threatening allergic reactions, severe rash, heart palpitations, minor liver damage, bleeding disorders, visual problems, hair loss, arthritis, lupus, migraines, nerve dysfunction, Guillian-Barre syndrome, seizures and multiple sclerosis.
Reasons to get this vaccine:
If you are a health care or medical worker you will come in contact with other peoples blood. In this case, it is very important to get this vaccine. Newborns with hep B positive moms would benefit from this vaccine. Family members living with a hep B-positive person benefit from the vaccine. Most parents feel this vaccine is relatively safe because the manufacturing process and ingredients do not include any animal tissues.
Some people choose not to get this vaccine because some parents feel their babies and children aren't at a high risk of catching hep B. It is highly unlikely for hep B to be transmitted b casual day-to-day contact. Its main route of transmission is sexual. Another reason people tend to stay away from this vaccine is because of the reported side effects. And some parents simply decide to delay this shot while more important ones are given first.
Closing paragraph from Doctor Sears:
Even I have to admit that when it comes to the question, What diseases is a baby at risk of catching? hep B is very low on the list (unless you have one very rebellious baby). Yet, getting a whole generation of kids to grow up with the hep B protection is a good way to minimize this disease in the future teen and adult population. So, do you get the shot early, while your child is young and can't voice an opinion? Or do you wait until she's older and getting closer to really needing the vaccine? (Not your kid, of course, I'm just talking in general terms.) It's not always easy to drag a teenager to the doctor to get one shot, let alone a series of three. Overall, this is an important vaccine from a public health standpoint, but its not as critical from an individual point of view as most of the other infant vaccines.
My main beef with the hep B vaccine is the fact that it is given at birth. Not just at birth, but seconds after the baby is delivered. Unless the mother is hep B positive, I see NO reason for a newborn infant to receive this vaccine. It just baffles me that it is ok to inject chemicals into a perfectly healthy newborn. I do think that it is important, but I do not think it is a necessary thing at such a young age. Zachariah has received all of the recommended doses, but I will probably delay this shot with my future children.