Emily Oster

3 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Should My Baby Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Q&A on another panic headline

Emily Oster

3 min Read

You may have seen that RFK Jr. went on the Joe Rogan podcast recently and caused quite a stir with his discussion about vaccines. I think his claims have been widely debunked, but one that was new to me was the argument that newborn babies should not be receiving the hepatitis B vaccine because — unless the mother has it — there is almost no way they could possibly contract it during their infancy.

It looks like in Europe and the U.K., the hep B vaccine is not administered until two to three months unless the child is at high risk for contracting it. What is the reason for vaccinating all newborns for hep B?

—Joe Rogan Panic Headline Mom

First: There is no space here to discuss this entire debate, but I would refer you to the chapter in Cribsheet in which I discuss the overall safety of vaccines. As you note, the claims Kennedy makes about vaccine risks have been widely debunked, in many different studies. 

In the case of the hepatitis B vaccine, the situation is as follows. Hepatitis B is a significant cause of liver cancer and liver failure. It’s much more serious if it is acquired early in life, since at that stage someone is much more likely to become a carrier. Transmission early in life can be from mom (or dad) or through a child care center. 

Because of these risks, vaccination at a young age is important. This is a multi-dose series, which in the U.S. begins at birth and which in many other countries begins at a few months. The reason to give the first vaccine at birth is that if mom is a hepatitis B carrier and does not know it, this will provide protection. If mom is not a known carrier, then there is — as you point out — very limited risk to waiting for a couple of months.  

The hepatitis B vaccine is extremely safe, and not associated with known risks. As a result, the choice about when to give it — at birth or starting at several months — really just reflects small differences in the way countries make decisions about vaccines. It is common to frame this as “What do they know that we don’t?” about dangers. The reality is that this is just a small difference in how medicine is practiced.

If you know you are not a carrier of hepatitis B (and that your partner is not), then waiting until two months for the first vaccine is unlikely to carry significant risks. It also does not carry any benefits.

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SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear.

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.
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⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
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Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

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Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

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☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster

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☀️ Most importantly, limit their time out in hot weather. (They get hotter than you do!)
☀️ Keep them in the shade as much as possible when you’re out.
☀️ Long-sleeve but lightweight clothing is your friend, especially on the beach, where even in the shade you can get sunlight reflecting off different surfaces.
☀️ If you want to add a little sunscreen on their hands and feet? Go for it! But be mindful as baby skin tends to more prone to irritation.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on the data around sun and heat exposure for babies.

#sunsafety #babysunscreen #babyhealth #parentdata #emilyoster
...