Commencing October 11, healthy newborns at Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre will receive a birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine within the first 24 hours of life to improve their protection against enduring and potentially fatal disease.
Dr Shivon Belle-Jarvis, the Pediatric Department Chair at the hospital says 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.
She added that many adults with an infection do not feel or look sick and are not even aware that they carry the virus. It is contagious and adults can transmit it while caring for an infant after birth.
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 within 24 hours of birth.
For infants born to hepatitis B positive mothers, the first dose of the vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin will be administered at birth, which is not new, regardless of birth weight or other co-morbidities.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic diseases. Chronic infection throughout a lifetime can lead to liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death.