Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria (Hib) were the leading cause of meningitis in children younger than 5 years old until the Hib vaccine became available. Here’s what you need to know about this life-saving vaccination.
The Hib vaccine is given by injection at ages:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months (however, some of the Hib vaccines do not require a dose at 6 months)
- a booster dose at 12–15 months
Kids ages 15 months or older who are receiving the vaccine for the first time only need one dose.
Children ages 12 months to 59 months (almost 5 years old) may need additional doses if their immune systems are weakened due to things like asplenia (when the spleen is missing or not working properly), HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, or a stem cell transplant.
The vaccine is not routinely recommended for kids older than 5, unless they have HIV or asplenia and have never been vaccinated.
Why the vaccine is recommended
The vaccine provides long-term protection from Haemophilus influenzae type b. Those immunized have protection against Hib meningitis; pneumonia; pericarditis (an infection of the membrane covering the heart); and infections of the blood, bones and joints caused by the bacteria.
Minor problems, such as redness, swelling or tenderness where the shot was given, may occur. There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction with any vaccine.
When to delay or avoid immunization
The vaccine is not recommended if your child:
- is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
- had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous Hib vaccine
Caring for your child after immunization
The vaccine may cause mild soreness and redness in the area where the shot was given. Depending on your child’s age, pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication and to find out the appropriate dose.
When to call the doctor
- Call if you aren’t sure whether the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
- Call if moderate or serious adverse reactions appear after the Hib injection.