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Monitor / VACCINATIONS

Doctors Give Blessing to a New Shot for Newborns

January 14, 2002

Doctors have recommended for the first time that newborns receive a vaccination--for hepatitis B--before they leave the hospital. Under the previous guidelines, the first hepatitis B shot (part of a three-shot series) was given to infants at 2 months of age, although it was given shortly after birth to newborns of mothers known to have the viral disease. Infants can contract the disease during childbirth from exposure to the mother's blood, but immediate vaccination can prevent the virus from taking hold.

Giving the vaccine to all newborns in the hospital reduces the chance that a baby will be exposed to hepatitis B by mothers who are mistakenly thought to be free of the disease. Hepatitis B, which is a sexually transmitted disease, can cause serious health problems, including liver failure, later in life.

The change in the hepatitis B vaccine is part of the annual immunization schedule update from the federal government and the American Academy of Pediatrics. For the first time in recent years, no new shots were recommended to the immunization schedule.

--Shari Roan

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