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At birth

Key facts

  • The best time for women to have a whooping cough vaccination is between 20 to 32 weeks (in their second or third trimester). 

  • Vaccinating your baby against hepatitis B at birth will protect them from an infectious disease that can have very serious complications.

  • Catching hepatitis B at birth leads to chronic infection in about 90 per cent of babies, and can have long-term health complications. 

  • The hepatitis B vaccine is a safe vaccine for newborns.

Last updated on 25 April 2023.
What vaccines are recommended for babies at birth?

Babies are most at risk of catching hepatitis B at birth, which is why it is recommended that all babies are vaccinated against hepatitis B in the first 24 hours after being born. In Australia, the vaccine is free for all newborn babies.

Babies under one year who catch hepatitis B are the most likely to develop chronic hepatitis B, which can lead to liver disease and liver cancer in adulthood. 

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious infectious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It mainly affects the liver.1 It passes from person to person through blood and body fluids, and can be passed from a mother to a child at birth or soon after.

Some people infected with the hepatitis B virus experience mild flu-like symptoms; some experience more severe symptoms including fever, nausea and vomiting, pain in the liver, pain in the joints and yellowing of the skin (called ‘jaundice’).

However some people develop chronic hepatitis B, a condition that can lead to liver disease and liver cancer. The risk of developing chronic hepatitis B is greatest in babies:1 around 90 per cent of babies who catch hepatitis B at birth develop chronic hepatitis B.2

The risks associated with hepatitis B are much greater for babies than they are for adults. Around 90 per cent of babies who catch hepatitis B at birth develop chronic hepatitis B. (Less than 10 per cent of adults who get the infection develop chronic hepatitis B2.)

  • There is no cure for chronic hepatitis B infection.
  • People with chronic hepatitis B need long-term antiviral therapy to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.3
    • Around one in four babies who catch hepatitis B at birth or soon after will die of liver failure or liver cancer as an adult.4
What do I need to do before the vaccination?

You don’t need to do anything special to get ready for the newborn hepatitis B vaccination. If your baby is born in a hospital, the midwife or trained immunisation nurse in the postnatal ward will give your baby a hepatitis B vaccination in the first 24 hours after birth. 

What do I need to do after the vaccination?

Newborn babies don’t usually have any noticeable reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine after the sting of the needle has passed. New babies who get these injections don’t usually get the reactions (like fever or allergic reactions to something in the vaccines) that older babies can get.5

If you are worried about your baby, you can get help from:

  • your doctor
  • your nearest emergency department
  • or by calling Health Direct on 1800 022 222.
When do we come back for more vaccinations?

When your baby is two months old, it is recommended they have three vaccines to help build their immunity to hepatitis B as well as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, polio, pneumococcus and rotavirus.

What if I still have questions?

You can find more information on vaccination in pregnancy and at birth in our Resources section, and on these pages:

If you still have some questions remaining, write them down so that you can ask your midwife, nurse or GP at your next appointment.

The development of this content was led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute for the MumBubVax website (now archived).

  1. NCIRS. Hepatitis B vaccines for Australians. Westmead, NSW: National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance; 2020. Available:
  2. Edmunds WJ, Medley GF, Nokes DJ, Hall AJ, Whittle HC. The influence of age on the development of the hepatitis B carrier state. Proc Biol Sci. 1993;253:197-201.
  3. Papatheodoridis GV, Lampertico P, Manolakopoulos S, Lok A. Incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in chronic hepatitis B patients receiving nucleos(t)ide therapy: a systematic review. Journal of Hepatology. 2010;53:348-56.
  4. Shepard CW, Simard EP, Finelli L, Fiore AE, Bell BP. Hepatitis B virus infection: epidemiology and vaccination. Epidemiologic Reviews. 2006;28:112-25.
  5. Lewis E, Shinefield HR, Woodruff BA, Black SB, Destefano F, Chen RT, et al. Safety of neonatal hepatitis B vaccine administration. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 2001;20:1049- 54.