What options can prevent hepatitis B?
It is widely accepted that the hepatitis B vaccine is the mainstay of hepatitis B primary prevention. 1 2The World Health Organization recommends that all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth. 1The complete vaccine series induces protective antibody levels in more than 95% of infants, children and young adults. Protection lasts at least 20 years and is probably lifelong. 1
For people who have not been vaccinated, risk of transmission can be lowered by: 1
- Using condoms
- Not sharing drug needles and personal items, such as toothbrushes, razors, earrings and nail clippers, with an infected person
The control and prevention of hepatitis B infection has been recognised, by WHO, as important public-health objectives and while preventive measures can include ways to reduce high-risk behaviours, vaccination is the mainstay for preventing infection. 1
Who should be vaccinated?
All children and adolescents younger than 18 years old and not previously vaccinated should receive the vaccine if they live in countries where there is low or intermediate endemicity. In those settings, it is possible that more people in high-risk groups may acquire the infection and they should also be vaccinated.
They include: 1
- People who frequently require blood or blood products, dialysis patients, recipients of solid-organ transplantations
- People interned in prisons
- People who inject drugs
- Household and sexual contacts of people with chronic HBV infection
- People with multiple sexual partners
- Healthcare workers and others who may be exposed to blood and blood products through their work
- Travellers who have not completed their hepatitis B vaccination series, who should be offered the vaccine before leaving for endemic areas
- WHO. Hepatitis B factsheet 204. 2015. Available at: http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/. Last accessed June 2015.
- Zanetti AR, Van Damme P, Shouval D. The global impact of vaccination against hepatitis B: A historical overview. Vaccine 2008;26:6266–6273.