Ask the VEC: Newborns and Hepatitis B Vaccine

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Parents PACK

Q. Why should my newborn receive the hepatitis B vaccine if I know that I am not infected with hepatitis B virus?

A. Before the hepatitis B vaccine became a routine recommendation in 1991, every year about 18,000 children in the United States were infected with hepatitis B before they reached 10 years of age. Half of those 18,000 early-life infections were not contracted during birth from an infected mother. Instead, they were caused by exposure to someone who, knowingly or not, was infected with hepatitis B virus. Because the hepatitis B virus is present in such large quantities in the blood of someone who is infected, it can be transmitted through quantities of blood not able to be seen with the naked eye, such as from shared toothbrushes or washcloths. Because a large number of people infected with hepatitis B are unaware they have the disease, it is extremely difficult to be confident we can avoid the infection through our own actions.

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.