Adverse Events Reported for Hepatitis B Vaccine


A watch dog organization of parents concerned about vaccination hazards has found that the number of children injured by the hepatitis B vaccine is higher than the number of children who get hepatitis. The hepatitis B vaccination is a relatively new vaccination required by the government for all children. It is administered in a series of three with the first injection usually administered immediately after birth.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) conducted an independent analysis of the raw data collected by the government-run Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. In 1996, 872 serious adverse events were reported in children under the age of 14 who had been injected with the hepatitis B vaccine. The NVIC press announcement states, "The children were either taken to a hospital emergency room, had life threatening health problems, were hospitalized or were left disabled following vaccination." Of the 48 children who died after the vaccination, 13 had received only the hepatitis B vaccination; the rest had received it in combination with other vaccines. In the same year, only 279 cases of hepatitis B were reported in American children under age 14, according to the NVIC.

This vaccination generated controversy from the start when it was first added to the government-mandated routine infant vaccinations in 1991. The next year, The Pediatric News reported the startling results of an informal poll of pediatricians, a majority of which said they were not following the recommendation. Many asked: How many vaccinations are we going to give a baby? The dissatisfaction continues. Last year the Journal of the American Medical Association mentioned surveys of physicians indicating that 1-4 out of every five physicians "object or express concern about giving three injections, and even more object to four injections, at a single visit." (See box insert at right.) But the problems with the hepatitis B vaccination go beyond quantity.

Hepatitis B is a chronic, potentially fatal liver disease. Over half the people infected with the hepatitis B virus never develop symptoms and would never know they had the disease unless they had a blood test. There is no argument over the importance of vaccinating infants born of women who are known carriers of the virus. What has drawn fire from the NVIC is the mandated vaccination of all infants for what is primarily an adult disease. Hepatitis B is largely confined to prostitutes, injecting drug users, receivers of blood transfusions, health care workers exposed to infected bodily fluids and people who have sexual or household exposure to an infected person.

Last year, France became the first country to end hepatitis B vaccination requirements for all schoolchildren, according to the NVIC, due to "reports of chronic arthritis, symptoms resembling multiple sclerosis and other serious health problems following hepatitis B vaccination."

For More Information:
Contact the National Vaccine Information Center, 512 W. Maple Avenue, #206, Vienna, VA 22180 (703) 938-0342, or visit its web site (

The recommendations for childhood vaccinations come from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC contends that the hepatitis B vaccine is safe. For its side of the controversy, call 1(800) 232-2522 or visit its web site ( Of special interest is a report, entitled "Questions and Answers about Hepatitis B and the Vaccine that Protects You."

A person born in the 1940s may recall receiving only one vaccination --for small pox -- just before entering school. A baby born today can expect about 17 vaccinations for up to ten different diseases in the first year and a half of life. Vaccination requirements vary slightly by state. Recently, some states (e.g., New York) have proposed legislation to require yet another routine infant vaccination -- for chicken pox.

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