Haemophilus Influenzae Type B Vaccine
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Haemophilus Influenzae Type B Vaccine

(Hib Vaccine)

En Español (Spanish Version)

What Is Hib Disease?

Haemophilus influenzae type B, or Hib, disease is caused by a bacterial infection. It usually strikes children under five years old. Hib disease can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, swelling in the throat, infections, and even death.

People can carry Hib disease bacteria and not know it. These germs can spread from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets from an infected person. When the germs stay in the nose and throat, sickness will probably not occur. But when they spread into the lungs or the bloodstream, they can cause serious problems.

Before the Hib vaccine, severe Hib disease affected about 20,000 children in the United States under five years old, and nearly 1,000 people died each year.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Other symptoms, depending on the part of the body affected

It usually takes less than 10 days after being exposed to Hib disease to develop symptoms.

Hib disease is treated with antibiotics.

What Is the Hib Vaccine?

The Hib vaccine is made from inactivated elements of the bacteria. It is given by injection into the muscle and should be stored in a refrigerator prior to administration.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

Children should get 3-4 doses of the Hib vaccine, at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months of age. Depending on what brand of Hib vaccine they receive, children may or may not need the dose at six months.

Also, if a dose is missed, speak to your child's pediatrician because there are different catch-up schedules depending on the brand and your child's age.*2

This vaccine is not recommended for children over 5 years, although it is sometimes administered to children and adults with special health conditions, such as sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS, removal of the spleen, bone marrow transplant, or cancer treatment with drugs.

Shortage of Hib Vaccine

On December 13, 2007, Merck announced a voluntary recall of its Hib vaccine due to possible contamination, although no infections have been reported. Because of this recall, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that parents delay getting their children the standard type B (Hib) vaccine booster at age 12-15 months. The shortage is expected to last into 2008. The initial three doses, though, should be given. Additionally, children at high risk for the disease should continue to receive the booster dose.*1

What Are the Risks Associated With the Hib Vaccine?

Like any vaccine, the Hib vaccine is capable of causing serious problems, such as a severe allergic reaction. While most people do not have any problems with the Hib vaccine, some people experience mild problems, such as redness, warmth, or swelling near the injection site, or fever over 101˚F.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Most children over the age of five years old don’t need to get the Hib vaccine.

Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of Hib vaccine should not get another dose. Children younger than six weeks should not get the Hib vaccine. Also, people who are moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.

What Other Ways Can Hib Disease Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

Unvaccinated infants and young children who are exposed to a child with Hib disease may be given an antibiotic to prevent the spread of Hib disease.

What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?

In the event of a Hib disease outbreak, public health officials will determine the population(s) at risk of developing the infection and vaccinate all eligible people with the Hib vaccine.


Childhood Immunization Support Program
American Academy of Pediatrics

National Immunization Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


CDC, AAFP, others release interim Hib vaccine recommendations. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/publications/news/news-now/clinical-care-research/20071219hibinterimrecs.html. Accessed December 20, 2007.

Directors of Health Promotion and Education website. Available at: http://www.dhpe.org/ . Accessed February 6, 2007.

Immunization Action Coalition website. Available at: http://www.immunize.org/vis/. Accessed February 6, 2007.

New York State Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.health.state.ny.us/prevention/immunization/recommendations/children.htm. Accessed February 6, 2007.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nip. Accessed February 6, 2007.

*112/21/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Merck announces voluntary recall of certain lots of PEDVAXHIB® and COMVAX®. Merck website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/newsroom/press_releases/product/2007_1212.html. Accessed December 20, 2007.
Questions and answers about Hib recall. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/recalls/hib-recall-faqs-12-12-07.htm. Accessed December 20, 2007.

*21/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5701a8.htm. Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.

Last reviewed February 2008 by David Horn, MD, FACP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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