Researchers from Taiwan showed a reduction in mortality by 90 percent due to complications from Hepatitis B since the state implemented a vaccination program on babies in 1984. This suggests that vaccination is very important to do.
Importance of Hepatitis B Vaccination
Vaccinations have also been lowering the level of dissemination of hepatitis B that can lead to liver damage, liver cancer, and lethal reactions in infants (hepatitis fulminant), said the researchers. “Immunization has provided protection for 30-years against the threat of acute hepatitis and end-stage of chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer,” said lead researcher, Chien-Jen Chen.
Chen said there are about 350 million chronic hepatitis B carriers worldwide, with the highest prevalence in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa sub-Saharan. Infection can be spread from mother to newborn.
“All the newborns in areas with high prevalence should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of heart disease and health care costs,” he said. The report is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, about 12 million Americans (one out of every 20 people) have been infected with this disease. In addition, more than 1 million people are chronically infected and up to 100,000 “new people” infected each year. The foundation estimates that 5,000 people in the U.S. die each year from hepatitis B and its complications. The new findings add to a deeper conviction of the need for vaccination, says an expert in the United States.
“This is an ‘exclamation point’ of what we already know, where the baby should be vaccinated against hepatitis B,” said Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York. “Vaccination of infants with hepatitis B vaccine is very effective in reducing chronic infection and liver cancer by 50 percent of those suffering from hepatitis B,” said Siegel.
In addition, vaccination will build immunity groups because fewer people are infected so as to reduce the spread of this disease in the community. According to Siegel, everyone should be vaccinated against this virus, ranging from infants to adults. “The hepatitis B vaccine is safe to do. The disease is frightening,” he said.
In this study, Chen and the research team observed the results of immunization over the past 30 years in Taiwan. In the first two years, the immunization program only covers newborns of mothers who carry the disease (hepatitis B). The program then expanded to all newborns as a whole.
In July 1987, vaccination was expanded again to include children in pre-school. Between 1988 and 1999, the program is increasingly extended to include all elementary school children. The rate of vaccinations against those born from 1984-2010 is about 90 percent to 95 percent, said the researchers.
For those born between 1977 and 2004, there was a decline of 90 percent mortality due to chronic liver disease and liver cancer, and there are 80 percent fewer cases of liver cancer as a whole. Infant mortality due to hepatitis B fulminant also decreased by 90 percent.
The Spread of Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is spread through blood or other body fluids that are infected with the virus. The virus then enters the body of an uninfected person. Infection can be transmitted to infants of infected mothers. Hepatitis B virus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person and sharing needles. Sharing razors or toothbrushes with an infected person are also at risk of transmitting the disease, as well as direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person.