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Hepatitis B to be added to infant vaccination schedule

Babies born after 1 August this year will be offered a hexavalent vaccine containing hepatitis B, which will replace the pentavalent DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine.

The new vaccine, Infanrix hexa, protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, Hib and hepatitis B. This will be the first time that a hepatitis B vaccine is offered to all babies in the UK.

The vaccine will be offered on the same schedule as the pentavalent vaccine that is usually given to babies at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age. The WHO has recommended since 1992 that all babies be offered a hepatitis B vaccination, but this is the first time that a cost effective vaccine has been available in the UK.

Up until now, NICE has recommended that hepatitis B vaccination should only be offered to patients who are at increased risk, including people who were brought up in countries with higher prevalence of the disease, babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B and close contacts of someone who is infected.

As reported by Pulse back in 2014, there had been concerns over another Infanrix-type vaccine that did not produce a strong enough immune response to the Hib component, but PHE have said that Infanrix hexa elicits protective levels of antibodies against all the components of the vaccine in the vast majority of infants.

They said in an information document for healthcare practitioners: 'Results from clinical trials show that nearly all infants given the three dose primary vaccination course of Infanrix hexa at two, three and four months of age develop protective levels of antibodies against diphtheria (100%), tetanus (100%), pertussis (100%), hepatitis B (99.5%), polio (98-100%) and Hib (96%).'

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