The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
A Look at Each Vaccine - Hepatitis B Vaccine

Christina L. Master, MD: People usually get infected with the hepatitis B virus when they're teenagers or young adults, but newborn babies can catch it during delivery if their mothers are infected. And young infants and older children can catch it from an infected sibling or playmate or relative.

Trish Parnell, Director of PKIDS: We have a lot of information that we're going to send you. You're going to go through so much-- When parents first find out that their child is living with a disease like hepatitis B, it is a life-altering discovery. The parents when they find out, they're angry, they're terrified, they're heart just shatters, because their kids' lives are not going to be what every parent dreams of, which is you--the kids are happy, they go to school, they're totally healthy, they grow up, they have kids of their own, and they live long healthy lives. That's probably not going to happen with kids who are chronically infected with hepatitis B.

Christina L. Master, MD: Every year many people in the United States die from a rapid and overwhelming infection of the liver caused by hepatitis B virus. Some people die from a long-term liver disease called cirrhosis. Still other people die from liver cancer. In fact, the only known agent that causes more cases of cancer than cases of hepatitis B virus is tobacco.

Trish Parnell, Director of PKIDS: There's this one family in Indiana, the mom died of liver cancer. Her two children are now grown. The son has died of liver cancer. The daughter is living with multiple problems from this disease, and of her kids, of her two kids, one of them is also chronically infected with hepatitis B because it wasn't until the third generation- well who knows how many generations before that- but it wasn't until the youngest generation that they found out that they had this disease. They just thought they were dying of cancer. They didn't know it was a preventable disease.

Christina L. Master, MD: People can be infected with hepatitis B virus and not even know it. You can't often tell who is contagious and who isn't. That's why it's important to get the vaccine. About 1 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis B virus.

The hepatitis B vaccine is made using only the surface protein of the virus. Because we use only the coat of the virus, children can be protected without ever having to suffer the disease.

Trish Parnell, Director of PKIDS: It's just a simple shot, and your kids are protected. When a disease is preventable and the child is- the child's life is forever affected by it, it is just the most heartbreaking thing in the world.

Christina L. Master, MD: Although it's only been in routine use since the early 1990s, the incidence of disease caused by hepatitis B virus has already started to decline.

Narrator: The next vaccine we're going to talk about is given to prevent a common and severe bacterial infection of young children.