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Vaccine. 2010 Nov 16;28(49):7723-30. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2010.09.068. Epub 2010 Oct 14.

Public vaccination programmes against hepatitis B in The Netherlands: assessing whether a targeted or a universal approach is appropriate.

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  • 1Health Council of the Netherlands, The Hague, The Netherlands.


To date, the policy to control hepatitis B in the Netherlands is to vaccinate specific risk groups, rather than all children. Low incidence of the disease has fueled debate whether such a targeted vaccination strategy or rather a universal strategy, as recommended by the World Health Organization, is appropriate. The standard framework for assessing whether a particular vaccination should be included in a public programme, as recently proposed by the Health Council of the Netherlands (HCN), was applied to the various options for hepatitis B vaccination. This framework includes seven selection criteria, grouped under five thematic headings: seriousness and extent of the disease burden, effectiveness and safety of the vaccination, acceptability of the vaccination, efficiency of the vaccination, and priority of the vaccination. From about 1990 the disease burden has stayed more or less the same over time and careful assessment has made it clear that the targeted approach has failed to reach a significant part of the risk groups. Models suggest that the public health benefits obtained through targeted programmes could be augmented considerably by universal vaccination. Based on the assessment that universal vaccination means better protection for high-risk groups as well as the whole population, the HCN calls for universal immunisation, even though hepatitis B to a large extent is limited to specific high-risk groups. Should the Netherlands adopt universal vaccination, several immunisation programmes targeted to high-risk groups will, however, remain of crucial importance for years to come.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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