From today all babies born in the UK will be offered the hepatitis B jab as part of their routine immunisations.
Public Health England hopes the move will help battle viral infections that cause cirrhosis and liver cancer.
You may think, oh no not another needle to make our poor little ones cry! But babies will not have any extra ordeal to go through, as the vaccine is simply being added to the 5-in-1 jab they all received at eight, 12 and 16 weeks before today.
The 5-in-1 jab protects against diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio and bacterial infections, so it’s already an invaluable weapon to keep our babies safe. Now it’s going one better.
It was surprising for me to learn that we are one the last European countries to offer the hep B jab to newborn babies as part of the free immunisations programme.
Perhaps it is because we have one of the lowest rates of hep B in the world. But whatever the reason, I am hugely in favour of immunisations and I think anyone who turns them down is mad and, frankly, selfish.
Hep B often has no symptoms. It can live in the body for many years in children and go on to cause liver damage. It is spread through blood and bodily fluids.
For those who have older babies and children not included in the new scheme, places such as private clinics and Superdrug offer the hepatitis B vaccine as an individual jab. They’re not cheap but if you feel strongly about this sort of thing then at least the option is there.
Sema Mandal, a consultant in immunisation, hepatitis and blood safety at Public Health England, said the vaccine has been used widely and safely for many years.
She said: “This has had a major impact on preventing infection in many countries. While hepatitis B is relatively uncommon in the UK, it is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer globally.”