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Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Jun;7(6):410-9.

Should hepatitis B vaccination be introduced into childhood immunisation programmes in northern Europe?

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  • 1Academic Centre for Travel Medicine and Vaccines, WHO Collaborating Centre for Travel Medicine, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK.


Infection with hepatitis B causes between 500,000 and 1.2 million deaths per year worldwide, and is the leading cause of liver cancer. Over 12 years ago, WHO recommended that universal childhood hepatitis B vaccination be implemented globally. Despite this, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK have yet to implement such a policy and instead currently adopt an "at-risk" strategy. Although all eight countries are classed as having low endemicity, factors such as increased travel and integration of immigrant communities are increasing the number of at-risk individuals in these countries. Considering the difficulty in identifying all at-risk individuals, and the lack of effectiveness of at-risk vaccination on reducing the overall incidence of hepatitis B, we recommend that these countries reassess their hepatitis B prevention strategies. Universal vaccination against hepatitis B is the only way to eliminate the major public-health impact of this disease.

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