- Babies born in Ireland have an extremely low risk of contracting hepatitis B.
- The last death from viral hepatitis in an under 5 year old was in 1984 (no classification of what type of hepatitis e.g. hepatitis A, hepatitis C etc).
- According to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) Immunisation Guidelines
- Hepatitis B is mainly spread by people with multiple sex partners or those sharing needles.
- Prevalence of hepatitis B in Ireland is less than 0.5% overall and lower again for women.
- In the small fraction of women who contract hepatitis B, it is possible to pass infection to their baby. Mothers will know they are infected due to the routine screening programme in place in Ireland.
- Not everyone that contracts hepatitis B has symptoms and in most people the virus clears up within 6 months and they become immune.
Health Freedom Ireland (HFI) encourages you to become fully informed about vaccines and the associated illnesses so that you can give informed consent if you choose to vaccinate yourself or your child(ren). This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. HFI is simply bringing this information to you – we neither recommend nor advise against vaccination.
Do the HSE recommend a vaccine for hepatatis B?
See the Health Freedom Ireland article with details on the Infanrix Hexa (6-in1) vaccine including risks, benefits, ingredients and studies. Despite hepatitis B mainly being a disease of IV drug users and persons with multiple sexual partners there is a recommendation to get 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine before 6 months of age:
Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine – 3 doses recommended at 2, 4 and 6 months
(Note: Hepatitis B can also be given on its own to babies from birth in Ireland using a product called Engerix B. The hepatitis B vaccine is also given to adults especially those working in healthcare but for the purposes of this article we are concentrating on childhood vaccinations in Ireland.)
Does vaccination guarantee protection from hepatitis B?
No. As with all vaccines protection from the disease cannot be guaranteed.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a viral disease which affects the liver. For most people, the virus clears up within 6 months and they become immune. The following is an extract from the HSE on hepatitis B:
“Hepatitis B is a viral disease that attacks the liver and may cause jaundice (yellow skin and eyes). In most people the virus clears up within 6 months and they become immune. But some people (about one in ten of those who get Hepatitis B as an adult) remain infectious and may go on to develop cirrhosis or cancer of the liver over a period of years. Follow up is important to detect early changes and treat when necessary.
Some people who have acute Hepatitis B have no symptoms at all and others may have a severe illness that requires hospitalisation.
Symptoms that may occur include jaundice (Yellow skin and eyes), itchy skin, fatigue and tiredness, poor appetite and weight loss, diarrhoea or vomiting and joint pains.“
What is the risk of my child getting hepatitis B in Ireland?
The risk of a child under the age of 5 getting Hepatitis B in Ireland is negligible. According to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland NIAC Immunisation Guidelines, the prevalence of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) for all ages in Ireland is less than 0.5% overall:
“The prevalence of HBV in Ireland is low (<0.5%). HBV is more prevalent in persons with multiple sex partners, sexual partners and household contacts of infected cases, prisoners, IV drug users, homeless persons, immigrants from countries with moderate or high Hepatitis B endemicity. … Most acute cases are people born in Ireland, who acquired the infection sexually. Most of the notified cases from 2004-2018 were aged 20-44 years.”
Clearly, we can see from the above that babies are not in the risk categories. Figures 9.3 and 9.4 show that there were no cases under the age of 15 and that the prevalence amongst women is even lower again.
Case numbers median age profile – Figure 9.3 – proportionally very few females and all over the age of 15.
Case numbers age/sex profile – Figure 9.4 – there were no cases of hepatitis B under the age of 15 in 2018.
Prevalence amongst women is relevant as it is possible for hepatitis B to be transmitted to a baby at birth. However the odds of a new born baby contracting hepatitis B in Ireland are minimal given the small number of women with the infection. In the event that the mother does have it, she will know as it is routinely screened for during pregnancy. According to information from NIAC on perinatal transmission, the baby will not necessarily be infected while in the womb (less than 2% risk) or during/after birth (5-90%). The risk is low where the mother’s viral load is low.
What is the risk of dying from hepatitis B in Ireland?
There were zero deaths from any form of viral hepatitis (e.g. hepatitis A, hepatitis C) in anyone under the age of fourteen in the nineteen years between 1988 and 2006. Annual CSO mortality statistics were no longer broken down by age after 2006. The risk of dying from any form of viral hepatitis in Ireland in the decade before the vaccine in 2008 was introduced was extremely rare at less than 1 in 133,333 (0.0003%).
|Deaths from viral hepatitis (A,B,C,D,E) before vaccine introduced in 2008|
|average population 1998 – 2007 = 3,966,679 |
average annual risk of dying from hepatitis B during this period was < 1 in 333,333 (0.0003%)
Note: There were zero deaths in under 5s in this period
Hepatitis B disease Vs vaccine risk summary
Read the Health Freedom Ireland article on the Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine which includes the hepatitis B vaccine for further information including risk and ingredients analysis, studies in support of and studies highlighting concerns.
|RISK FROM HEPATITIS B DISEASE|
|Current risk of getting hepatitis B in Ireland||Negligible for under 5s|
|Risk of dying from hepatitis B in the decade before a vaccine was introduced in 2008||Extremely rare: <1 in 333,333 (0.0003%)|
Negligible for under 5s
|Current risk of dying from hepatitis B for under 5s||Last death from any form of hepatitis in under 5s in 1984|
|RISK FROM HEPATITIS B VACCINE|
see section 4 of patient information leaflet for full list of side effects
**Severe allergic reactions can occur to any vaccine but they are very rare and are usually seen in less than 1 in 10,000 people who are vaccinated
|Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine|
(3 doses recommended at 2, 4 & 6 months)
|Risk of bronchitis, lymphadenopathy, bleeding or bruising more easily (thrombocytopenia)||Rare: up to 1 in 1,000 doses (0.1%)|
|Risk of Neuropathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome, encephalopathy, encephalitis, meningitis (causal relationship to the vaccine has not been established)||In extremely rare cases (frequency not defined)|
Join the parents support group to continue the discussion and learn from the experience of others
Health Freedom Ireland:
Health Freedom Ireland Infanrix Hexa (6-in-1) vaccine