- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) All U.S. newborns should be vaccinated against hepatitis B before leaving hospitals to protect against possible disease from infected mothers, doctors recommend.
Previously, giving the shots in the hospital was recommended only for newborns whose mothers were known to be infected or whose disease status was unknown.
The recommendation is listed in the childhood immunization schedule for 2002, prepared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The list of seven shots recommended for infants is published in the January issue of Pediatrics.
The recommendation for hepatitis B shots was made out of concern that some infants of mothers mistakenly thought to be disease-free might be falling through the cracks, said Dr. Julia McMillan, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) committee that helped create this year's list.
Doctors also worried that some infants were not being vaccinated early because of concerns that some shots had a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal, which has since been removed from most vaccines, said Dr. Louis Cooper, AAP president.
While there's been no known increase in infants infected with hepatitis B, vaccinating them before they leave the hospital "just makes good sense," Dr. Cooper said.
Newborns can contract the virus from infected mothers' blood during childbirth, but vaccinating them soon afterward can prevent the disease from taking hold, said Dr. McMillan, a pediatrics professor at Johns Hopkins University.
The seven recommended vaccines are: hepatitis B; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis combined; haemophilus influenza type b; inactivated polio; measles, mumps, rubella combined; chickenpox; and pneumococcal vaccine. Hepatitis A and flu vaccines are recommended for certain at-risk children.

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