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Protection against Haemophilus influenza type b is included in your infant’s first set of vaccines at age 2 months. Hib, as it’s better known, is a bacteria that can cause severe invasive diseases, including meningitis, blood infections, and epiglottitis. It can also cause skin infections, pneumonia, and infections of the bone and joints. Before the Hib vaccine’s widespread use, Hib was responsible for the majority of cases of meningitis in children younger than five years old. It is estimated that before the vaccine, nearly 20,000 children in the US experienced severe infections due to Hib. Today, severe infection due to Hib has decreased by 99 percent!

Haemophilus influenzae is a bacterium commonly found in people. Nearly all children are exposed to the bacteria in the first few years of life. The bacteria live in our nose and mouth and are spread through respiratory droplets. Mothers pass their own antibodies to their babies before birth, but this protection is only temporary. Most people who come in contact with the bacteria will not become seriously ill. However, the great majority of the children who become ill are previously healthy kids.

Your child will receive the Hib vaccine either on its own or as part of a combination vaccine. Alone, it is given during your child’s well exam at ages 2, 4, 6, and 12–15 months.  Some offices offer the Hib vaccine as one component of a combination vaccine, of which two are available. The first, known as Pentacel®, includes Hib along with diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio. The second, Comvax®, combines Hib with the hepatitis B vaccine. If your physician uses either of these two combination vaccines, your child’s vaccine schedule may be slightly different, so ask about the schedule.

Like all immunizations, Hib can cause side effects. One in four children will experience redness and or tenderness at the injection site. One in 20 will have fever. The fever should be mild and last only a day or so. Let your child’s doctor know if your child experiences anything out of the ordinary that you feel might be associated with the vaccine. Always read the vaccine information sheet provided in the office prior to any immunizations.

Takeaways

  • The Hib vaccine protects against infection with the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria.
  • Prior to widespread vaccination, this bacteria caused the majority of cases of meningitis in children in the United States.
  • The Hib vaccine can be give as part of a combination vaccine or as a stand-alone vaccine.
  • Immunization with the Hib vaccination typically begins at two months of age.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hib Vaccination.
  2. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A Look at Each Vaccine: the Hib Vaccine.
  3. Red Book Online. Section 3: Summaries of Infectious Diseases. Haemophilus influenzae infection.

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