Baton Rouge - The Department of Health immunization program urges all parents to make sure their newborn babies receive a Hepatitis B vaccine.  The vaccine prevents nearly 95 percent of mother-to-child (perinatal) infections if given within 12 hours of birth.  It also protects a child from getting hepatitis later in life.

 In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all medically stable newborns weighing at least 4.4 pounds get the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth before discharge from the hospital nursery. Staff with DHH’s immunization program are currently surveying birthing hospitals to make sure they are following this recommendation.

 Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the immunization program, said, “Because this vaccine is so beneficial, we are working to make sure that all hospitals are aware of and compliant with the CDC regulations.  In the meantime, we want parents to insist that their medically stable newborns weighing at least 4.4 pounds get the ‘birth dose’ of the vaccine prior to leaving the hospital.”

 Up to 90 percent of infants who are infected with Hepatitis B will develop chronic infections later in life. Twenty-five percent of chronically infected children die prematurely from cirrhosis and liver cancer.  Giving the birth dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine prevents most of these diseases. Since routine vaccination of kids began in 1991, the incidence of the disease among children and adolescents has dropped by more than 95 percent.

 “This potentially deadly disease is highly preventable,” said Welch. “The first dose of the vaccine at birth saves lives, prevents chronic illnesses from the disease and also prevents missed opportunities for vaccination.”

 Hepatitis B is the most common serious liver infection in the world.  Short term symptoms include loss of appetite, tiredness, diarrhea, vomiting and yellowing of the skin.  If the infection worsens, it can lead to scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and even death.

 For more information on Hepatitis B, please visit