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Vaccine. 1995;13 Suppl 1:S47-9.

Global programme for control of hepatitis B infection.

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Division of Communicable Diseases, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland.


The hepatitis B virus (HBV) has infected more than 2000 million persons alive today and 350 million persons are chronically infected carriers of the virus, at high risk of death from active hepatitis, cirrhosis and primary hepatocellular cancer. Each year approximately 1 million people die from the acute and chronic sequelae of HBV infection, making it one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in man. In May 1992, the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization, endorsed recommendations stating that countries with an HBV carrier prevalence of 8% or more should have hepatitis B vaccine integrated into their national immunization programmes by 1995 and that all countries should have such immunization in place by 1997. At present, 50 countries have a national policy of including hepatitis B vaccine as a routine part of their infant immunization programme--up from 25 countries in 1990. These countries represent 32% of the world's 145 million newborns, but 56% of the world's carriers. Several countries of 'low' endemicity are also recommending hepatitis B immunization of all newborns or adolescents (or both), realising that the strategy of 'high-risk group' immunization has failed to control HBV infection even in areas of low endemicity and that addition of hepatitis B vaccine to routine immunization schedules is highly cost-effective. All countries should establish working groups to examine the burden of disease due to HBV infection and the cost-effectiveness of adding hepatitis B vaccine to routine and/or adolescent immunization programmes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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