Hepatitis B vaccine becomes priority jab for newborns, says Pediatrics Head at hospital

Yesterday, October 11, the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre began  to administer, to healthy newborns, a birth-dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

This, according to the hospital, will be done within the first 24 hours of birth to improve the child’s protection against the enduring and potentially fatal disease.

Dr. Shivon Belle Jarvis, head of the Pediatrics Department at the hospital, says, “Hepatitis B can lead to devastating lifelong illnesses or even death.”

Therefore, she says this vaccine is a critical safety net to protect babies from acquiring a potentially serious infection at the time of birth.

Maternity and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Department Manager Ann-Marie Browne-Isaac says this is the first vaccine a baby receives, which is important, as no newborn leaves the hospital without it.

Browne-Isaac says that infants are especially vulnerable to infection at the time of birth, and need the maximal protection provided by this first vaccine dose. 

The hospital says that all medically stable newborns with a minimum birth weight of about 4 lbs. 6 oz., and born to mothers who are hepatitis B-negative, will receive the vaccine, which is well tolerated by infants, within 24 hours of birth.

“For infants born to hepatitis B-positive mothers, the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin will be administered at birth, which is not new, regardless of birth weight or other comorbidities,” the medical facility notes.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease, which over the course of a lifetime can lead to liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death.