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1 in 5 At-Risk U.S. Babies Doesn't Get Hepatitis B Vaccine
Date:3/8/2010

Researchers urge hospitals to vaccinate all children

MONDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- About one in five babies born to mothers with hepatitis B aren't getting treatments that have been shown to prevent the infection in newborns, a new study finds.

Given within 24 hours of birth, the hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin can protect 85 percent to 95 percent of newborns from becoming infected, even if they were exposed at birth.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed medical records of 4,762 mothers and 4,786 infants. The records represented about 25 consecutive live births from 190 U.S. hospitals, each of which was surveyed about their hepatitis B prevention policies in their labor and delivery departments.

Records showed that 18 women tested positive for hepatitis B at the time of admission to the hospital. While 62 percent of their newborns received the hepatitis B vaccine and immunoglobulin, nearly 14 percent left the hospital unvaccinated and nearly 20 percent did not receive immunoglobulin before discharge, according to the study.

Of 320 women whose hepatitis B status was unknown, meaning they may or may not have been tested for the virus, only about 52 percent of their infants were vaccinated within 12 hours of birth. About 20 percent of these babies left the hospitals without being vaccinated.

"A key message of the study is that hepatitis B virus transmission is almost entirely preventable through vaccination and prophylaxis," said study author Bayo Willis, a CDC epidemiologist. "We really need hospitals to have correct policies in place and to implement those policies so that every newborn is protected before they leave the hospital."

The study findings were released online March 8 in advance of publication in the April print issue of Pediatrics.

About 1.4 million U.S. residents have chronic hepatitis B inf
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