By August last year nearly half of the hospitals in Chicago, USA, were not offering HBV immunization to newborn babies, after the program was suspended in July 1999, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
At that time hospitals were advised to delay vaccination until infants were at least 2 months old, because of the presence of thimerosal, an ethyl-mercury preservative, in the vaccine.
|61% of obstetric departments had not resumed the vaccination program as recommended.
|Journal of the American Medical Association|
Two months later, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised hospitals to resume vaccination at birth using a new thimerosal-free vaccine.
The research showed that out of 46 obstetric departments in the Chicago area, just 39% had followed the recommendation by August last year.
The researchers led by Dr Ronda Oram, of Chicago University, warned that hospitals that continued to delay vaccination could put vulnerable populations at risk.
She said vaccinating children at birth achieved much higher take-up rates than efforts to recall children for the procedure several months later.
The researchers write, "In an inner-city population, on-time completion of vaccinations is particularly desirable, because of historically low on-time immunization rates and high risk for HBV infection.
"Special efforts may be necessary to make routine at-birth administration of HBV vaccine universal. The medical and public health benefits of initiating HBV vaccine in the nursery seem to justify educational efforts aimed at restoring HBV vaccine administration to newborns.
"Adoption of universal HBV vaccination for newborns will potentially eliminate a vaccine missed opportunity and ensure high immunization rates against HBV, and, possibly, other immunizations recommended for routine administration."
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