Four Georgia hospitals have been recognized for achieving the highest reported rates in the state for vaccinating newborns against the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) listed Colquitt Regional Medical Center of Moultrie, South Georgia Medical Center of Valdosta, Wayne Memorial Hospital of Jesup and Grady Health System of Atlanta on the Hepatitis B Birth Dose Honor Roll, which recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that have attained high coverage levels for administering the hepatitis B vaccine at birth.
“We are pleased to have four of our Georgia delivery hospitals recognized for their outstanding efforts to protect infants from hepatitis B infection,” said Steven Mitchell, director of DPH’s immunization program.
To be listed on the honor roll, institutions must within a 12-month period vaccinate at least 90 percent of newborns before hospital discharge. The institutions must also implement written policies and procedures to protect babies from hepatitis B infection.
Colquitt Regional Medical Center immunized 98 percent of the babies born there from August 2012 to August 2013. South Georgia Medical Center immunized 96 percent of its newborns from September 2012 to September 2013. Wayne Memorial Hospital immunized 97 percent of infants from January 2012 to January 2013 and Grady Health System immunized 100 percent of infants from November 2012 to November 2013. All four facilities took additional steps to prevent perinatal transmission of hepatitis B.
Once infected with the hepatitis B virus, a person can develop a liver disease that can last a few weeks or for a lifetime. Mothers can pass the virus to their babies at birth, but individuals can also become infected by exchanging blood, semen or other bodily fluids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis B. After hepatitis B vaccination became routine for children in 1990, rates of acute hepatitis B in the U.S. declined by 82 percent, according to CDC.
The national standard of care to prevent hepatitis B in infants is to administer the vaccine to all newborns before they leave the hospital or birthing center. This standard is being adopted by centers of health care excellence nationwide to protect newborns from a wide range of medical errors that can lead to perinatal hepatitis B infection.
“Hospitals and birthing centers have a responsibility to protect babies from life-threatening hepatitis B infection,” said Deborah Wexler, M.D., IAC’s executive director and founder. “Colquitt Regional Medical Center, South Georgia Medical Center, Wayne Memorial Hospital and Grady Health Systems’ commitment to the best practice of hepatitis B vaccination at birth has shown them to be leaders in preventing the transmission of the hepatitis B virus.”
Mitchell said there are many more Georgia hospitals that are equally committed to protecting newborns from the virus and encouraged all qualified institutions to apply for the honor roll.
“We know our hospitals are providing the hepatitis B vaccine to newborns and would like each facility to receive national recognition for their efforts,” he said.
The Georgia Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program (PHBPP) identifies pregnant women infected with the hepatitis B virus and provides case management services for the pregnant women and their newborn infants, such as ensuring the newborn receives hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth, completes both the hepatitis B vaccine series and the post-vaccination serologic testing to ensure protection against the virus.
For more information about the Georgia PHBPP or IAC’s Hepatitis B Birth Dose Honor Roll, please contact the PHBPP Coordinator, Tracy Kavanaugh, at 404-651-5196 or visit the program’s page on DPH’s website.