In a recently released statement, the Hepatology Society of the Philippines (HSP) is reasserting the “importance of the [hepatitis B] birth-dose vaccination for all Filipino infants.” Don't leave the hospital without having your newborn vaccinated.
“In Filipino babies without contraindications, hepatitis B vaccination is recommended WITHIN 24 HOURS of birth,” states HSP. The timing helps ensure the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing newborn infection, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The hepatitis B vaccine is included in the Philippines’ National Immunization Program and available in health facilities, centers, and clinics for Filipino children free of cost. It is listed in the Childhood Immunization Schedule of the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), which also recommends it to be given at birth.
A disease that affects the liver, hepatitis B can be passed on by the mother when she gives birth to her newborn. About 10 million Filipinos are estimated to carry the hepatitis B virus, says HSP. And, few adults infected will exhibit symptoms, so the mother may not know she has the disease. “Many people with hepatitis B look and feel healthy and have no symptoms, but they can still spread the virus,” adds the HSP.
Babies and young children infected with the virus are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B, which can cause extensive liver damage. “The younger a person is when infected, the higher the chance that he or she will have life-long infection with the virus,” according to HSP.
Chronic hepatitis B is a “serious infection that can result in liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and death,” adds the HSP. “Liver cancer is fatal when diagnosed late and left untreated, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the country.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “After completing the full 3 to 4-dose hepatitis B vaccine series, 98 percent of healthy infants achieve full immunity to the virus.” Says Dr. Elizabeth Barnett, a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Disease, “Hepatitis B can lead to devastating lifelong illnesses or even death, so this vaccine is a critical safety net to protect babies from acquiring a potentially serious infection at the time of birth.”
Apart from making sure your newborn is vaccinated within 24 hours after birth, the HSP also strongly advises pregnant women to get tested for hepatitis B. “Knowing whether a pregnant mother has hepatitis B is important because transmission of the virus can be prevented.”
Prevention of the transmission of the virus from mother to child includes giving the newborn the hepatitis B vaccine and an additional shot called HBIG that contains pre-formed antibodies against the virus.
To see the full list of vaccines recommended for children ages 0 to 18, click here.