Health Ministry to immunize healthcare workers with Hepatitis- B vaccine

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all healthcare workers with occupational exposure, who have not received a complete primary series

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New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a decision to vaccinate all healthcare workers who are at an increased risk of acquiring Hepatitis-B infection such as those involved in conducting deliveries, giving injections and exposed to blood or blood products. Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all healthcare workers with occupational exposure, who have not received a complete primary series.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is highly contagious and is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. It is transmitted when blood, semen or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus, enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles/syringes, needle injuries; or other invasive equipment; or from mother to baby at birth. There is no specific treatment for acute Hepatitis B disease. Clinical management is based on supportive therapy and relief of symptoms.

HBV infection is a well-recognized occupational risk for health-care workers (including trainees), and others (e.g. housekeeping staff, emergency workers) exposed to infected blood and body fluids or blood-contaminated environments. Because of their contact with patients or infective material, health-care workers are at considerably greater risk of HBV infection than the general population. Health-care workers are often unaware of all exposures to potentially infectious blood and body fluids, or contaminated environments. Even when exposures are recognized, health-care workers often do not seek post-exposure prophylactic management. Hepatitis B vaccination safeguards health workers when administered early, ideally before occupational exposure, and provides greater protection for patients from infection through exposure to contaminated environments or infected workers.

In 2015 the global prevalence of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) infection in the general population was estimated at 3.5 percent with about 257 million persons living with chronic HBV infection. It is a major global health problem, and the most serious type of viral hepatitis. It is estimated that about 780,000 people die each year due to consequences of Hepatitis B, such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Prevalence of Hepatitis Bamong general population in India ranges from 2 to 8 percent, which places India in an intermediate HBV endemicity zone, and India with 50 million cases is also the second largest global pool of chronic HBV infections. Among healthcare workers seroprevalence is two to four times higher than that of the general population. Hepatitis B is preventable with currently available safe and effective vaccines.

The Health Ministry is already taking many initiatives to prevent Hepatitis B which include the Hepatitis B vaccine that is given at birth and as a part of routine immunization under the Universal Immunization Programme, and the use of auto disposable syringes for vaccination to prevent spread through contaminated syringes and proper disposal of bio-medical waste.

Reports from India, as claimed by the Health Ministry, indicate that only 16-60 percent of healthcare workers have received complete HBV immunization. Paramedics have a higher risk of HBV transmission and receive HBV vaccination less often than doctors. Vaccination is effective in protecting 90- 95 percent.

The adult schedule to be followed for the dosage i.e. three doses of Hepatitis Bare to be given within a period of 1-6 months. The States and Union Territories will work out the logistics including number of beneficiaries which requires the vaccination and the quantity of vaccines. The vaccination remains effective for a long period.