Hib vaccine

The Hib vaccine gives protection against serious infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria. 

  • In addition to respiratory tract infections, Hib causes 
  • meningitis
  • epiglottis (throat inflammation)
  • sepsis
  • pneumonia 
  • infections in joints and bones. 

Vaccine-preventable diseases

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To whom is the Hib vaccine administered?

National vaccination programme

Young children are particularly susceptible to Hib diseases. This is why the vaccine is administered to infants as part of the DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine (5-in-1) in the children's vaccination programme, protecting them against not only Hib infections but also diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio. 

A separate Hib vaccine is offered to children aged under 5 years who have received sufficient doses of DTP and polio vaccines but do not have full protection against Hib diseases. 

Stem cell transplant recipients are the only medical special group who receive a free Hib vaccine. In their case, it is included in the primary series of vaccinations administered as the DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine (5-in-1).

Hib vaccinations not included in the national vaccination programme

A Hib vaccine is also recommended for: 

  • splenectomy patients or those with abnormal spleen function 
  • organ transplant patients
  • patients using complement activation inhibitors, including eculizumab

The vaccines for people in these groups are paid for by either the treatment provider or the recipient. 

Which vaccine is used and what does it contain?

The trade name of the Hib vaccine product used in Finland is Act-HIB.  

  • The vaccine does not contain live pathogens.
  • The active substance is surface sugars from H. influenzae type b bacteria, which have been conjugated to a carrier protein (tetanus toxoid).
  • The excipients are trometamol (buffer), sugar, salt, acidity regulators and purified water used for injection liquids.

Dosage and schedule

The volume of a single ready-to-use vaccine dose is 0.5 ml. The vaccine can be used from the age of 3 months.

As part of the national vaccination programme, children are protected against Hib diseases by the DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine (5-in-1) at the ages of 3, 5 and 12 months. 

If the vaccinations are delayed, observe the following schedule:

  • If the vaccinations are started when the child is under 12 months old: administer three doses in total on the schedule 0, 2 and 6 months.
  • If the vaccinations are started when the child is 12 to 17 months old: administer two doses in total on the schedule 0 and 2 months.
  • For children aged 18 months, a single dose is sufficient.
  • Children aged 5 years or older no longer need the vaccine.

What are the contraindications and precautions associated with the vaccine?

The vaccine may not be administered to a person who has had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction following a previous Hib vaccine or some of its components.

Do not administer a Hib vaccination to a child who has a fever or a febrile illness; in this case the vaccination should be postponed. 

What are the benefits of the Hib vaccine?

Since the Hib vaccine was introduced Hib diseases, mainly meningitis, sepsis and epiglottis, have been extremely rare in Finland. 

The protection is established within approx. one to two weeks after the vaccination is administered and lasts throughout the childhood years in those who have received a booster. 

In addition to infections, the vaccine also prevents pharyngeal carriage of Hib bacteria. The herd immunity thus produced also reduces infections among those who have no immunity, usually because they have not been vaccinated. 

The Hib vaccine does not afford protection against infections caused by unencapsulated strains or other than serotype b H. influenzae bacteria, or meningitis resulting from other causes. 

What are the potential adverse effects of the Hib vaccine?

A few per cent of vaccine recipients have a transient fever, mild generalised symptoms, or local symptoms. Allergic reactions and serious adverse effects are extremely rare.

Swelling in a lower limb and changes in skin colour after a vaccination

As an extremely rare adverse effect, swelling in lower limbs and changes in skin colour have been associated with Haemophilus influenzae type b Hib vaccinations. The exact mechanism causing the symptoms is unclear, but they are thought to be caused by a vasomotor response as blood vessels contract or expand. 

Hypotonic hyporesponsive episode (HHE)

HHE is a rare state similar to fainting that occurs in young children after vaccinations. The symptoms disappear without treatment, however, and the state does not have after effects.

History of the Hib vaccine in the national vaccination programme

A Hib vaccine was offered to all children born in Finland as early as in 1987. A study design was used in which children born on days with an even number were administered one product, while those born on odd days were given another. During this study period, 94% of Finnish children already opted for the vaccination.

Evidence of the excellent effectiveness of the Hib vaccine in population-wide use is thus strongly based on Finnish data sets. Since that time, the vaccine has been offered to all Finnish children, and it was officially included in the national programme in 1993.