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Open Access Research article

Variation in hepatitis B immunization coverage rates associated with provider practices after the temporary suspension of the birth dose

Nancy D Lin12, Ken Kleinman1, K Arnold Chan3, Xian-Jie Yu1, Eric K France4, Feifei Wei5, John P Mullooly6, Steven Black7, David K Shay8, Margarette Kolczak8, Tracy A Lieu1* and the Vaccine Safety Datalink Team8

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

2 Center for Health Policy and Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

3 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

4 Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Denver, CO, USA

5 HealthPartners Research Foundation, Minneapolis, MN, USA

6 Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, Portland, OR, USA

7 Vaccine Study Center, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, CA, USA

8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

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BMC Pediatrics 2006, 6:31  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-6-31

Published: 13 November 2006

Abstract

Background

In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and U.S. Public Health Service recommended suspending the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine due to concerns about potential mercury exposure. A previous report found that overall national hepatitis B vaccination coverage rates decreased in association with the suspension. It is unknown whether this underimmunization occurred uniformly or was associated with how providers changed their practices for the timing of hepatitis B vaccine doses. We evaluate the impact of the birth dose suspension on underimmunization for the hepatitis B vaccine series among 24-month-olds in five large provider groups and describe provider practices potentially associated with underimmunization following the suspension.

Methods

Retrospective cohort study of children enrolled in five large provider groups in the United States (A-E). Logistic regression was used to evaluate the association between the birth dose suspension and a child's probability of being underimmunized at 24 months for the hepatitis B vaccine series.

Results

Prior to July 1999, the percent of children who received a hepatitis B vaccination at birth varied widely (3% to 90%) across the five provider groups. After the national recommendation to suspend the hepatitis B birth dose, the percent of children who received a hepatitis B vaccination at birth decreased in all provider groups, and this trend persisted after the policy was reversed. The most substantial decreases were observed in the two provider groups that shifted the first hepatitis B dose from birth to 5–6 months of age. Accounting for temporal trend, children in these two provider groups were significantly more likely to be underimmunized for the hepatitis B series at 24 months of age if they were in the birth dose suspension cohort compared with baseline (Group D OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.7 – 4.4; Group E OR 3.1, 95% CI 2.3 – 4.2). This represented 6% more children in Group D and 9% more children in Group E who were underimmunized in the suspension cohort compared with baseline. Children in the reversal cohort in these groups remained significantly more likely to be underimmunized compared with baseline. In contrast, in a third provider group where the typical timing of the third dose was unchanged and in two other provider groups whose hepatitis B vaccination schedules were unaffected by the birth dose suspension, hepatitis B vaccination coverage either was maintained or improved.

Conclusion

When the hepatitis B birth dose was suspended, provider groups that moved the first dose of vaccination to 5–6 months of age or later had decreases in hepatitis B vaccine coverage at 24 months. These findings suggest that as vaccine policy changes occur, providers could attempt to minimize underimmunization by adopting vaccination schedules that minimize delays in the recommended timing of vaccine doses.