Understanding Hepatitis B

SECTIONS of this (lengthy) Overview:

  • Introduction
  • What is Hepatitis B?
  • Hepatitis B Quick Facts
  • Who is Considered “High Risk” for Hepatitis B Infection?
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine History
  • Rate of Hepatitis B Infections in the USA
  • Why Christian Parents Vaccinate
  • Why Christian Parents Delay
  • Why Christian Parents Opt Out
  • A Consideration, Some Common Sense, and Love
  • Sources & Resources

I’m the oldest of 5 children. I recently learned that I was never vaccinated for Hepatitis B (HB), and neither were my first two brothers since we were born before 1991, when the CDC launched a national campaign of adding a recommended 3-dose vaccine series (with the first dose given within 12 hrs of birth) to the childhood vaccination schedule. My 3rd brother, born during the national transition to this new vaccine, was the only one of us to receive the HB vaccine–one dose (not at birth, but at 1 or 2 months–Mom doesn’t remember)–and had a violent reaction. Mom, a nurse, opted to not complete the series for him and passed on it for my sister completely.

After my own research and talking through the Hepatitis B (HB) disease with my mom and other healthcare professionals, I’m convinced that HB is widely misunderstood and that parents should understand the disease as it exists in the United States, risk factors, and the vaccine itself, regardless of vaccine choice.

If you are reading this and were born before 1991 and do not work in the healthcare industry, it’s probable you were never vaccinated either. If you’re a mom or expecting, screening for Hepatitis B infection and immunity is part of your initial blood work early in pregnancy (this is how I found out my status–I’m not immune or vaccinated, but I’ve never been exposed either).

Don’t freak out if you are not immune–like any disease, though this means you’ve probably never been vaccinated (there is a limited 5-10% HB vaccine failure rate), it also means you have made it this far in life without ever being exposed to the real thing (think HIV). If you grew up in a Christian home with a godly heritage, chances are high (99%) your parents and grandparents grew up without being exposed either.

Before rushing to your doctor or local health department to start the 3-shot series, read up on the disease and the vaccine first so that you can make an informed, objective choice either way rather than one based on fear or “just because.” Remember, I’m all about vaccine choice and informed consent. I will not tell you what to do or not do with yourself and your children. If you haven’t already, Read This First: Concerning Vaccines before continuing. Continue reading


Why Parents Delay Vaccines

Please do not read this post until you Read this First: Concerning Vaccines.

Most parents who choose to delay some or all vaccines usually do so for one or both of these reasons:

These events could be anything from poor response (persistent vomiting, prone to catching secondary illnesses after vaccines), to allergic reactions (anaphylactic reactions, febrile seizures), to serious adverse events (recurring seizures, encephalopathy, paralysis, neurological damage, death). Though statistically the chances of experiencing a serious adverse event are minimal (by some estimates, 1/100,000), to the parents and families of the 1 affected the reality is 100%. These parents would rather delay and be safe than sorry. As an extreme example, a couple loses their first child to SIDS within days or even hours of receiving the recommended round of 2-month vaccines. Though the CDC states there is no causal relationship between vaccines and SIDS, who in their right minds would blame or vilify these parents for delaying vaccines for their future children?

There is no law in any state requiring that parents follow the CDC schedule to the letter. State requirements simply say, school/daycare children must have X number of doses of XYZ vaccine before attending. They don’t care that your child started the 3-shot Hepatitis B series at age 12 months or 24 months instead of at birth like the CDC recommends. These requirements do not even include every vaccine on the market (HPV, for example), so just because the CDC puts a vaccine on the recommended schedule does not mean it’s required or necessary. Understand that the CDC assumes worst-case scenarios in regards to risks for children, and came up with a schedule that they truly believe offers the best protection for everyone (the “greater good” concept). Parents who choose to delay consider the risks of delaying, and for whatever reason believe these risks are worth taking. Just like some low-risk pregnant women opt for home birth, they understand that their choice always comes with some risk.

Unfortunately, parents who delay vaccines often experience vilification from health care providers instead of compassion, understanding, and objectivity…and the doctors out there who choose to listen to parents’ concerns and respect their right to informed consent are often thrown under the bus by their medical peers (such as Dr. Paul Offit, a popular media mouth-piece for mandatory vaccines, ridiculing and making untrue statements concerning Dr. Sears, author of The Vaccine Book–a simple “Offit Sears” Google search will tell you all you need to know).

Our family doctor has written several posts concerning vaccine choice that parents who fall on either side, or somewhere in between, would benefit from reading. I’ve posted links, along with a PBS interview with Dr. Sears for further consideration:

Read this First: Concerning Vaccines

The Psalmist wrote:
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.”

My goals for any post I write concerning vaccine choice are two-fold:

  • To help clear away muddy presuppositions, so that we as Christian moms might replace fear with love and pride with peace.
  • To promote Christian unity and inspire thoughtful discussion.

THE MODERN VACCINE WAR: a breeding ground of fear, pride, and hate–and Christians are being sucked in. 

Most vaccine-related posts I’ve read took me for a ride through various links (study after study) and clever, often emotionally-driven verbiage sprinkled with modern medical or scientific consensus. The writer’s agenda becomes obvious: to persuade the reader to make an “all or nothing” decision concerning vaccines. Rather than taking an objective, balanced ride up the middle of the road, the writer crashes into a ditch–promoting the one side dubbed as the “anti-vax movement,” or the other being “science-based and common sense.” Comments are filled with vitriolic language and shaming from individuals who’ve fallen into one ditch or the other:

  • “Anti-vaxxers are child abusers! They should be thrown in jail and have their kids taken away!”
  • “You are poisoning and KILLING your kids and supporting Big Pharma conspiracies and profits!”
  • “If you shoot up your kid and he gets autism, it’s YOUR fault.”
  • “Do your research. Vaccines cause autism! Here’s XYZ, XYZ, XYZ scientific studies! Science and FACTS never lie! It happened to my baby!”
  • “Do your research. Vaccines do NOT cause autism! Here’s XYZ, XYZ, XYZ scientific studies! Science and FACTS never lie! My child was BORN with autism, not MADE!”

And the two Christian-cloaked comments that make my heart ache:

  • “Christians who don’t vaccinate don’t really love their neighbor.”
  • “Christians who vaccinate don’t really trust God.”

As of this writing, vaccination is still considered a medical procedure, meaning a patient (or parent of a patient) has the right to informed consent. So, parents have the right to refuse or delay any vaccination, and also have the right to authorize the injection of every vaccine on the market into their children beyond what’s “required” for school or recommended by government agencies. Medical, conscientious objection, and religious exemptions exist in most states.

I’m not going to tell you whether you should or should not vaccinate your children, which vaccines are “good,” which are “bad.” There’s plenty out there arguing for both ditches (hello Google). But I will explain the why behind the choices of Christian parents on both sides.

ULTIMATELY, our children are in the Lord’s hands
As believers our trust in the Lord’s sovereignty over medical outcomes should dissolve any fear of risks involved in opting-in or opting out, for ourselves and our neighbors. Sin brought disease and death to the world–and anytime a person (vaccinated or not) experiences illness or disability, avoids or overcomes disease, Jesus Christ cares, is not surprised, is in control and desires glory for Himself (John 9:1-3, John 11:1-44, Psalm 103:1-5). Satan, Sin & Death are the enemies, and Jesus is the Conqueror of all three–and one day He will cast away Death forever (Rev. 20:14)! As believers, we must always keep eternity our central focus: our brothers and sisters who choose differently from us are not our enemies.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, 
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:2-5 (ESV, emphasis mine)