ABPI urges Government to vaccinate children against Hepatitis B

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is urging the British Government to vaccinate all British children against Hepatitis B.

The life-threatening virus, which is 50 times more infectious than HIV, affects more than 325,000 in the UK.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is urging the British Government to vaccinate all British children against Hepatitis B.

The life-threatening virus, which is 50 times more infectious than HIV, affects more than 325,000 in the UK.

Chronic Hepatitis B can develop into potentially fatal conditions such as liver cancer and cirrhosis. Once contracted, the virus cannot be cured.

A vaccine however, can be effective in preventing people from contracting the virus.The World Health Organisation (WHO) called for countries to introduce universal childhood immunisation more than 15 years ago. Since then, 116 countries have complied but the UK is not among them.

The ABPI, in conjunction with the British Liver Trust and the Hepatitis B Foundation, is petitioning Government and demanding that urgent action is taken.

"Lives are being put at risk. A programme needs to be put into place to ensure that all British children are inoculated against Hepatitis B," said ABPI medical director Dr Richard Tiner. "It is a matter of public health. Much of the rest of Europe operates mass childhood vaccination programmes; it is time that the UK followed suit."

Imogen Shillito, director of information and education at the British Liver Trust said: "In the UK the Government only vaccinates those deemed to be at high risk - but evidence shows that this policy is failing. A recent investigation into NHS use of the vaccine found only half of GP practices are following clinical guidelines on protecting patients. This is leaving millions of patients at risk of a preventable disease. The Government has revealed that prisoners, who are particularly at-risk, are left exposed to infection."

The calls follow the publication last month of "Target Hepatitis", a joint report, which examines all variants of the disease, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis D, produced in association with the British Liver Trust, Hepatitis C Trust and Hepatitis B Foundation UK.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have calculated that the worldwide introduction of universal infant vaccination would prevent 84% of HBV-related deaths, assuming 90% coverage.

The hepatitis B vaccine was licensed in 1986 and was the first licensed vaccine to prevent a form of cancer.

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