Parents are being encouraged not to vaccinate babies against hepatitis B, with claims the virus only spreads through unprotected sex and sharing needles.
The claim is false. Experts told AAP FactCheck the disease is most commonly acquired during childbirth and early vaccination can protect infants from developing chronic, lifelong infection.
He argues that as infants aren’t engaged in unprotected sex or sharing needles, there’s no reason to vaccinate them against the virus.
“No doctor, or medical paper on this planet has yet to give any solid reason why it is given to babies on their day of birth and then again at 2, 4 and 6 months of age,” the posts state.
“That’s right. In Australia your baby is injected 4 times by 6 months of age so stop them getting a virus that is spread through sharing needles with someone who has HepB or having unprotected sex with someone who has HepB.”
Hepatitis B affects the liver and can result in acute infection, causing symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting, muscle and joint pain, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, rashes and fever.
Infections lasting more than six months are classified as chronic hepatitis.
The disease can be spread through blood and other bodily fluids during unprotected sex and sharing needles, but also spreads in many other ways.
Those include from a mother to a baby during childbirth, when sharing household items such as razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers, through tattoo needles or in medical settings.
“Ninety per cent of hepatitis B is mother to child transmitted at the time of birth as the baby traverses the birth canal or at caesarean section,” Professor George said.
Associate Professor Mark Douglas, head of the Viral Hepatitis Pathogenesis Group at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, said age also strongly influences the risk of developing chronic hepatitis.
He told AAP FactCheck nine in 10 children infected at birth developed a chronic infection, compared to one in 20 adults.
“In other words, most people in the world living with chronic hepatitis B acquired it as an infant,” Dr Douglas said.
Prof George said the evidence showed it was important to vaccinate children from birth, even those not born to hepatitis B-positive mothers.
“This is because the next peak of hepatitis B virus acquisition is in the first five years of life – from contact between an infected toddler and one who is not,” he said.
The claim you can only get hepatitis B from sharing a needle or having unprotected sex is false.
Evidence shows the virus is most commonly spread from mothers to babies during birth. Experts told AAP FactCheck children infected with the virus are much more likely than adults to develop chronic infections. The vaccination is also safe and highly effective.
False – The claim is inaccurate.