Why vaccinate infants and young children against hepatitis b, healthy child

December 6, 2017

Hi there,
I don’t quite understand why babies and toddlers are vaccinated against hepatitis B. The only risk of infection is through blood or sexual intercourse?
Furthermore, I would be interested in why you vaccinate the 6-fold vaccination 4 times? Why is there no protection after vaccination?
Thank you very much.

A hepatitis B infection is contagious weeks before the onset of the disease and can be passed on to others without being noticed. Chronically infected people who show little or no symptoms can also transmit the hepatitis B virus. Even the smallest amounts of infectious blood that get into skin injuries or on the mucous membrane are sufficient for infection. The hepatitis B virus can also be transmitted through lacrimal fluid, saliva, sperm, vaginal secretions, menstrual blood and colostrum (previous milk). The hepatitis B virus can also survive outside the body for at least 7 days and cause an infection if it gets into damaged skin or on the mucous membranes of an unprotected person, for example when using nail scissors or toothbrushes.

A transmission is therefore not only possible through sexual contact. In the family or in day-care centers, contagion can occur through the contact of infected body fluids with mucous membranes or through minor injuries or otherwise damaged skin. A transmission is also conceivable if hygiene is inadequate in health facilities or, for example, when piercing ears.

Hepatitis B is rare in infancy. However, infants and young children are particularly at risk for chronic forms, which is up to 90 percent. As a result of chronic hepatitis B, liver cirrhosis or liver cancer can develop.

The STIKO Standing Vaccination Committee therefore recommends vaccination against hepatitis B to all infants and young children. For children of mothers with chronic hepatitis B or with unknown hepatitis B status, vaccination immediately after birth is strongly recommended (rki.de/…/FAQ-Liste_HepB_Impfen.html).

When using a six-fold vaccine, STIKO recommends one vaccination at the age of 2, 3 and 4 months and a further vaccination at the age of 11 to 14 months in order to provide protection as early as possible against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio ( Poliomyelitis), hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and hepatitis B. If a single hepatitis B vaccine is used, the dose can be omitted at the age of 3 months, i.e. 3 doses of vaccine are sufficient.

Vaccinations "train" the immune system (further information at gesundheites-kind.de/…/). Some of the vaccinated already form pathogen-specific antibodies (antibodies) after the first six-fold vaccination. However, reliable and longer-lasting protection can only be expected after the completion of the basic immunization according to a time-controlled scheme.

According to the technical information for one of the approved six-fold vaccines, according to study data, after two vaccine doses, at least 84.3 percent of the vaccinated children developed antibodies against each of the vaccine antigens; after the complete vaccination series, the figure was around 98 percent.

Your pediatrician will advise you individually on the hepatitis B vaccination and other vaccinations.

Sincerely yours
Your healthy child team

Our expert advice from the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the University Medical Center Mainz answers your questions about vaccination protection for children.

Scientific Advice:
Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, University Medicine Mainz

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