Global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine affects UK initiative
It was recently revealed that the UK would administer all babies with the hepatitis B vaccine to reduce the risk for young children, who are most risk should they catch the virus. Now, it has been revealed that manufacturing issues could cause severe shortages to administer the vaccine to those in need.
Public Health England announced that those most at risk and babies, as in the previously mentioned case, would be prioritised when doctors decide who receives the vaccination. The measures to reduce use of the vaccine set to continue into 2018.
However, the manufacturing issues relates to MSD and GSK. The former has stated that increased demand has put pressure on meeting the numbers required, while GSK has struggled to make up this shortfall in supply due to reduced manufacturing capacity.
Levels of incidence of the infection are very low in the UK but those travelling abroad could potentially be affected, as this would not be considered high priority. In East Asia and parts of Africa, levels of hep B can reach as high as 10% of adults carrying the virus.
Public Health England issued the following advice to reduce risk of contracting the infection by ensuring to:
• Avoid having unprotected sex;
• Not inject drugs, or by not sharing needles when injecting;
• Avoid having tattoos, piercing or acupuncture when overseas;
• Avoid accessing medical or dental care in high prevalence countries
Further than this, it reassured the public that: “Vaccination will still be available, as now, for those who have already been exposed to hepatitis B. Such people should seek urgent medical attention as the infection can still be prevented if treated promptly after the incident.”
In most cases, contracting hep b as an adult does not lead to notable symptoms. In many cases, an adult will fight off the infection without realising that they have contracted it. Usually, the virus will pass after two or three months.
However, when young children contract the virus it can cause serious damage to the liver and pregnant mothers can pass on the virus to their babies. Public Health England advises anyone who believes they may be infected to ask for a test from their healthcare professional.