Vaccinations: Hib

What is Hib? 

Haemophilus influenzae type B, commonly referred to as Hib, is a bacterial infection that most often occurs in children under the age of 5. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), before the Hib vaccine was available, Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children. Hib can also cause pneumonia, epiglottitis (a severe throat infection), and infections of the blood, joints, bones, and the sac around the heart.

Why should I vaccinate my child? 

The CDC recommends Hib vaccinations for all children younger than 5 years old. Before the Hib vaccine was introduced in 1987, there were about 20,000 cases and 600-1200 Hib related deaths each year. Hib disease was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis among U.S. children under 5 years old until the vaccine became available. Meningitis is an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord that can lead to brain damage and deafness. Hib can also cause pneumonia, severe swelling in the throat, severe infections, and death.

With the introduction of the vaccine, the incidence of Hib has declined by 99 percent but despite these low rates, the CDC continues to urge parents to vaccinate their children to prevent a future resurgence of this dangerous bacterial infection. 

How many doses will my child receive? 

The Hib vaccine is typically given as a series of three or four shots, beginning with a primary series that includes two or three doses (depending on the brand of the vaccine) and concluding with a booster shot at 12-15 months of age.

When is the vaccine given? 

According to the CDC, children should get the Hib vaccine at: 

  • 2 months of age 
  • 4 months of age 
  • 6 months of age (this dose may not be needed, depending upon which brand of the vaccine is used) 
  • 12 to 15 months of age (booster)

What are the possible side effects? 

Side effects of the vaccine include redness, warmth, or swelling at the injection site (reported in up to 25 percent of children) and a fever over 101° F (reported in up to 1 out of 20 children). If these symptoms occur, they usually begin within a day of the vaccination and may last 2–3 days. Parents are advised to apply a cool, wet washcloth to the painful area and give acetaminophen or ibuprofen (as directed by the child’s health care provider; dosage for babies is based on a child’s weight not age) for pain and fever. If symptoms persist, parents should contact their child’s health care provider right away.

When should I call a doctor? 

Parents should immediately alert their child’s health care provider if the child experiences difficulty breathing, hoarseness, wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a rapid heartbeat, or dizziness. Such side effects would likely occur within a few minutes to a few hours of receiving the vaccination. Parents should also contact their child’s health care provider if the child has a high fever or displays unusual behavior.

Last updated September 21, 2021

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