Education And Debate

Integration of hepatitis B vaccination into national immunisation programmes

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7086.1033 (Published 05 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1033
  1. Pierre Van Damme, researchera,
  2. Mark Kane, medical officerb,
  3. André Meheuson behalf of the Viral Hepatitis Prevention Board, professora
  1. a Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination, Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerp, Belgium
  2. b Global Programme for Vaccines and Immunisation, World Health Organisation, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Van Damme
  • Accepted 10 September 1996

Abstract

Hepatitis B is a major public health problem even though safe and effective vaccines have been available for over 10 years. Because hepatitis B infection is largely asymptomatic with long term complications occurring after many years it has not received the attention it deserves. Strategies to immunise those at high risk have failed to control the disease. Delegates to the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organisation recommended in May 1992 that all countries should integrate hepatitis B vaccination into their national immunisation programmes by 1997. Some western European countries remain unconvinced that the burden of disease warrants the expense of universal vaccination. However, epidemiological data and economic evaluation show that universal hepatitis B vaccination is cost effective in countries with low endemicity and that it will control hepatitis B, reinforcing the necessity for action.

Footnotes

    • Accepted 10 September 1996
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