The hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine should be given to infants within their first 24 hours, according to a new policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Although the number of cases of HepB infection have dropped more than 90% since the vaccine was first introduced in 1982, it estimated to still effect about 1,000 infants perinatally in America each year, according to AAP News .
"Prevention of perinatal HepB infection involves identification of the infection in women before or during pregnancy and appropriate management of their infants after delivery. The birth dose of HepB vaccine is a critical component of this strategy," according to Elizabeth D. Barnett, MD, FAAP, in the article.
AAP's new guidelines now align with the recent recommendation from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which also calls for infants weighing at least 2 kg to be given their first dose of the vaccine within 24 hours of birth.
The 2005 version of the ACIP's policy recommended giving the initial dose at birth as well, but it included language that indicated that the dose could be delayed.
When the vaccine series is given—and at least three to four doses are given to healthy full-term infants—98% of healthy infants achieve the protective antibody concentrations, according to the AAP.
Infants who fail to get the vaccine are at risk for developing HepB and could be at risk for serious long-term health consequences. According to the AAP, babies who contract the disease have a 90% chance of developing a chronic HepB infection.
"If untreated, about 25% will die of hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cirrhosis," Barnett wrote.
Changes to the AAP policy came in response to an earlier call for action from attendees of the 2017 Annual Leadership Forum. At the annual meeting, participants passed a resolution asking the AAP to promote the birth dose across the world.