This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions.
Hepatitis B vaccination was recently included into the national childhood immunisation programme.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that causes a liver infection. Often children with hepatitis B do not have any symptoms. In adults, it can cause a flu-like illness, and later yellow jaundice, nausea and rashes. Quite often infected people are not diagnosed until late stages when they are showing signs of chronic liver disease.
There is no cure for Hepatitis B so prevention via vaccination is the key. Treatments for Hepatitis B infection are aimed at decreasing the viral load and limiting the liver damage.
Having long-term Hepatitis B infection can cause scarring (cirrhosis) in the liver and increases the risk of developing liver cancer.
Why have Hepatitis B vaccinations been added to the childhood immunisation programme?
In 1992, the World Health Assembly (the decision-making branch of the WHO) recommended that every country should have a universal hepatitis B immunisation programme by 1997. However, as Hepatitis B rates in the UK were low (around 0.5%), introducing a UK-wide stand-alone Hepatitis B programme was not cost-effective.
In 2014, the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) re-evaluated this cost-effectiveness and subsequently recommended the use of the 6-in-1 (or hexavalent) combination vaccine for all infants, called the Infanrix hexa®. This also protects against diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, pertussis (whooping cough) and Haemophilus influenza type b infections.
As of the 1st August 2017, Infanrix hexa® replaced the 5-in-1 vaccine as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule (see below) given to babies at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age. By combining Hepatitis B vaccination with diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis and Hib vaccines, babies can be provided with protection against six harmful diseases at the very earliest opportunity, in one single injection.
Is Infanrix hexa® safe?
Infanrix hexa® is not a new vaccine. It is licensed for use in 97 other countries across the world including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Since the vaccine was first licensed for use in October 2000, approximately 150 million doses have been safely given to babies in Europe and across the world with no evidence of harmful effects.
The 5-in-1 vaccine has been given to infants in the UK since 2004 and is highly effective and well tolerated. Numerous studies have shown that the hepatitis B vaccine can be added to the 5-in-1 vaccine without a) affecting the antibody response from the other 5 vaccines and b) causing any more adverse reactions.
The stand-alone hepatitis B vaccine has been used since 1981 and is also well-tolerated and highly effective.
Why should everyone get vaccinated against Hepatitis B?
Cases of Hepatitis B in the UK are on the rise, partially due to an increase in the population migration. Hepatitis B has a high prevalence in Eastern Europe and the Far East.
Although Hepatitis B is transmitted via blood, semen or other infected bodily fluids, quite often infected individuals cannot pinpoint the source of their infection. Given the significant consequences that hepatitis B infection can have to one’s life and the fact that there is no cure for Hepatitis B infection, we recommend everyone should be vaccinated against Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccination is 3 injections on a schedule of 0, 1 and 6 months time. At ROC Clinic, single Hepatitis B vaccination is £65 per booster. At present, there is a national shortage of the stand-alone Hepatitis B vaccine but we estimate that supplies will be restored soon.
If you wish to add your name to our waiting list please get in touch.