Hepatitis B vaccination added to routine childhood immunisation schedule
In response to the World Health Assembly recommendation that every country should routinely immunise children against hepatitis B, the hexavalent vaccine Infanrix hexa is now being introduced to the routine childhood immunisation schedule in the UK.
Infanrix hexa, which replaces the pentavalent vaccines Infanrix-IPV+Hib and Pediacel, protects against hepatitis B in addition to diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). All infants born on or after 1 August 2017 are eligible for the new hexavalent vaccine, which should be given at eight, 12 and 16 weeks. A routine booster dose of hepatitis B vaccine is no longer required if the child has completed their routine primary course of immunisations with the hexavalent hepatitis B-containing vaccine, except for infants at high risk, who should receive an additional dose of monovalent hepatitis B vaccine at 12 months of age.
Public Health England has prepared a report that provides information to healthcare professionals on the inclusion of the hepatitis B vaccine in the routine infant immunisation programme, including vaccine scheduling, administration, contraindications and addressing parental concerns.
Clinical trials have shown that, following a three-dose primary vaccination course with Infanrix hexa, almost all infants develop protective levels of antibodies against diphtheria (100%), tetanus (100%), pertussis (100%), hepatitis B (99.5%), polio (98–100%) and Hib (96%). Adverse events are similar to those experienced with the pentavalent vaccines, and include loss of appetite, irritability, fever and injection-site reactions.