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The Benefits of Hepatitis B Vaccine Far Outweigh the Risks: A Pharmacist's Professional and Personal Perspective

By LKO, PharmD, Pharmacist at a children's hospital in the Midwest
I am writing to provide testimony in favor of current standards for administration of hepatitis B vaccine to all infants, and to recommend that programs be initiated and/or continued that expand routine hepatitis B vaccination to achieve protection of all children and adolescents as well.
I make this recommendation as a health professional who has been engaged in primary and preventive care of children and adults for the past 25 years. I believe passionately that we must commit our resources and energies to preventing disease wherever possible. I consider it a tragedy and an injustice every time I see a patient who becomes seriously ill with a disease that could have been prevented.
I also have a particular interest in prevention of hepatitis B due to my personal experience of what this disease can do to individuals and families. My first cousin (one year older than I) contracted hepatitis B from a blood transfusion when she was 15 years old. She overcame the initial illness, and went on to marry and also became a staff person in the medical records department of the university hospital where I did my residency training. Unfortunately, her disease reactivated when she was 24 years of age. During the year I was in residency, I saw her frequently admitted to the hospital. Her condition progressively worsened and she developed end-stage liver failure with severe ascites, jaundice, urticaria, and skin breakdown to the point of literally bleeding over her skin surface. It was a blessing when she passed away after months of severe illness. She was the oldest child of a large family that also lost their youngest to heart disease within the same year. I would like to help prevent another family suffering as my aunt and uncle did.
As a pharmacist, I am well aware that no medication is without risk. Risks and benefits must always be balanced in life. I am absolutely convinced that the benefits of this vaccine far outweigh any risks it may have. Anyone who has ever watched a loved one die of a complication of this disease would certainly agree. Because most people suffer these complications only at a much later date, it can be a temptation to hide one's head in the sand about the need for hepatitis B vaccine in childhood. We can say, "But my child won't be at risk!" Well, I certainly wouldn't have picked my cousin as a candidate for fulminant hepatitis B, but it's too late once it happens!
This is the Congressional testimony of a pharmacist who writes in favor of universal hepatitis B vaccination for U.S. infants and all children ages 0-18. This statement was submitted by e-mail to members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform for the May 18, 1999, Congressional hearing on hepatitis B vaccine.
Published 3/2/00
Disclaimer: The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) publishes personal testimonies for the purpose of making them available for our readers' review. Please note that information in the testimonies may be outdated and may not reflect the current immunization schedule or recommendations.
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This page was updated on July 17, 2021.
This page was reviewed on July 17, 2021.
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