Study supports hepatitis B vaccination for pregnant women

A study by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center maternal-fetal specialists has confirmed that a potential new protocol for hepatitis B vaccination in pregnant women was both effective and well-tolerated.

The accelerated regimen sped up the recommendation for pregnant women to get three shots of hepatitis B vaccine over the course of six months to a 12 week period. The findings were published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“It’s difficult to get all three doses in pregnancy, and people tend to get lost to follow-up, especially high-risk populations,” Dr. Jeanne Sheffield, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern and the lead author of the study, said, reports. “Now that we’ve shown it’s efficacious in pregnancy, people are interested. We’ve already received a number of requests for our specific protocol from physicians who see high-risk patients and are interested in starting a vaccination program.”

The stepped-up schedule in pregnancy showed seroconversion rates of 90 percent, which are comparable to the standard schedule in healthy adults. In addition, there were no increases in preterm delivery rates or neonatal intensive care admissions of the 200 women enrolled in the study. A total of 168 of the women received all three doses of the vaccine.

“The vaccine was well-tolerated in our pregnant women, and no serious adverse events were reported,” Dr. Sheffield said, according to “Initial concerns about the ability of a pregnant woman to mount an effective immune response to a vaccine are largely unfounded. It’s doable.”

Close to 1.5 million people live with chronic hepatitis B infection in the United States. It is the underlying cause of 3,000 deaths per year. In 1993 and later in 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that pregnant women at risk for hepatitis B should receive a vaccination against the disease.