Find out why and when your child needs the Hib vaccine.


Why does my child need the Hib vaccine?

The Hib vaccine protects your child against Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria (Hib) disease, which is most common in children under 5, and especially in babies 4 to 12 months old.

Usually found in the nose and throat, Hib bacteria may be passed from person to person. If the germs spread to the lungs or bloodstream, Hib can cause serious conditions including meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord; pneumonia; swelling in the throat that makes breathing difficult; and other infections of the blood, joints, and bones.

Before the Hib vaccine was introduced in 1987, Hib disease affected about 20,000 children under 5 every year; the disease was the main cause of bacterial meningitis -- which can lead to brain damage, blindness, deafness, and even death -- for that age group. Though other types of bacteria and viruses may still cause meningitis, the number of Hib-triggered cases has decreased by 99 percent since the vaccine has become widely used.

What's the recommended Hib vaccine schedule?

The Hib vaccine schedule includes individual doses at 2, 4, and 6 months and between 12-15 months. The 6-month dose may be optional depending on the brand of vaccine used by your doctor.

If your child misses one of these doses, try to get the next one as soon as possible. It's important to stick closely to the schedule because Hib infections are most common during the ages that babies are vaccinated for them, between 6 and 12 months.

The Hib vaccine is safe to be given along with other vaccines.

Who shouldn't get the Hib vaccine?

While the Hib vaccine is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended childhood vaccinations, children who fall into the following categories should not receive it:

  • Babies less than 6 weeks old
  • Kids who've had a serious allergic reaction (including difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, a fast heartbeat, or weakness or dizziness) to a previous Hib shot.
  • Kids older than 5 (unless your child has certain medical conditions like HIV or sickle cell disease, he won't need this vaccine after age 5)
  • Kids who are moderately or severely ill (more than just a cold, for example) should wait to get vaccinated

Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about whether or not the Hib vaccine is safe for your child.

Are there any side effects from the Hib vaccine?

Contracting Hib disease is far more dangerous than any side effects from the vaccine. Though allergic reactions are possible, the Hib vaccine in particular is known for causing only mild side effects.

  • Up to 25 percent of kids will experience redness, swelling, or warmth near the shot site.
  • Up to 5 percent of kids will experience fever over 101 F., taken rectally.

As with any vaccine, severe allergic reactions are rare, but possible. If you notice your child having difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat shortly after receiving a shot, call your doctor right away.

Is the Hib vaccine really necessary?

Although Hib disease is far less common than it was before the vaccine was introduced, it's still crucial to protect your child by having her vaccinated. Most recent cases of Hib disease have occurred in unvaccinated and in incompletely vaccinated children, according to the Immunization Action Coalition.

Wasn't the Hib vaccine recalled recently? Should I be worried?

Some Hib vaccines were recently recalled because of potential contamination at the manufacturing site. No side effects or injuries have been reported, and the vaccines all tested as safe. So should you be worried about Hib vaccine safety now?

"Parents have no reason to worry about Hib vaccines offered to their children now," says Neal Halsey, MD, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland and a member of Parents magazine board of advisors. "And even when the vaccine was recalled, there was no evidence that any kids had been harmed -- it was a precautionary move."

Halsey says parents should be reassured by the reaction from vaccine manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "It shows that vaccine production is being carefully watched and if there's the slightest doubt about safety, the vaccine will be recalled."

Sources: Neal Halsey, MD, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland and a member of the Parents magazine board of advisors. Paul Offit, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and a member of the American Baby magazine advisory board member. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Vaccine Education Center section on Hib Vaccination. Immunization Action Coalition section on Hib Vaccinations. The National Network for Immunization Information section on Hib Vaccination. Medline Plus: a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health section on Hib Vaccination. CDC sections on Hib Vaccination.

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