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What Shots Do Babies Get At Birth? An Expert Explains

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There's a lot to consider when you're about to welcome a baby into the family. There are carseats to install, cribs to put together, day cares to look into — but there's a lot to think about just moments after giving birth, too. Like what kind of medical procedures and protections your baby may get soon after they're born. You probably know about vaccinations, but what shots do babies get at birth?

According to the Office of Women's Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "babies need many important tests and procedures to ensure their health and some of these are even required by law." But, as long as the baby is healthy, everything but the APGAR test (which is non-invasive) can wait for at least an hour. (Before delivery, talk to your doctor or midwife if you're thinking about delaying shots.)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated that the only necessary vaccine at birth is the Hepatitis B vaccine, and its first dose should be administered within 12 hours of a baby's birth. Why do newborns need this vaccine right at birth?

According to Fit Pregnancy, it's a matter of public health. If babies get their first dose in the hospitals, then health officials know that they'll have at least one dose. That one dose would provide at least some protection to the baby, and contribute to herd immunity, even if just minimally.

The only other shot that your baby will get at birth is the vitamin K shot. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, because vitamin K deficiency is one of the most common causes for bleeding in healthy infants, and newborns are inherently Vitamin K deficient at birth, the shot is given to prevent hemorrhagic disease. This shot is intramuscular, and typically given in the thigh.

Are the shots safe? Yes. Lots of studies have shown them to be safe and effective. Can parents refuse? Yes, but it's important to keep in mind that most schools and day cares require immunizations to be up-to-date before kids can attend.

Dr. Adam Spanier, MD, PhD, MPH and Professor and Division Head of Pediatrics at University of Maryland's School of Medicine confirms this to Romper, saying, "Both shots are important and have long records of safety. Both are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Choosing to refuse either would be against the best current medical advice and guidelines."

It's a little frightening to think that your sweet little baby will be poked and prodded beginning right at birth. The thing about parenting, though, is that you'll have to make a lot of choices that contribute not only to the health and well-being of your child, but of the general population as well. Sometimes, you have to take one for the team, and in this case, the team is you, your baby, and the world.