A vaccine that is free is somehow not reaching hundreds of babies in Johnson County, KS.
Preventing Hepatitis B is free in Johnson County, but still about 22 percent of infants aren't getting the vaccine. Health experts said this is a problem that doesn't need to exist.
"When we started checking with the state we had realized we had dropped 22 percent in the infants receiving the birth dose. What is the reason behind it? Is it personal choice, is it education, basic education to moms and healthcare providers?" asked Disease Contaminant Division Director Nancy Tausz.
The vaccine can prevent a baby from contracting Hepatitis B. Infants born to infected mothers have about a 90 percent chance of developing chronic infection. About 15 to 25 percent of those with a chronic Hepatitis B infection will die prematurely.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment found that only 70 percent of infants born in Johnson County in 2010 got the first dose of the free vaccine. That number dropped from 92 percent of infants in 2005.
"It's worrisome because the vaccine is readily available to begin with and it's a preventable vaccine. It's available at all hospitals in Johnson County at no cost. I don't know if it's a perception of the vaccine not being necessary or just personal choice or the education about the vaccine is not getting through to the moms," Tausz said.
Members of the health department researched all birth certificates filed in Johnson County from 2005 to 2010.
They are unsure of why the trend began. They are working with local hospitals to try and educate mothers to encourage more people to get the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend that all newborn infants receive the Hepatitis B vaccine during their first week of life, often before they leave the hospital.
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