Viral hepatitis: Global goals for vaccination


In countries where hepatitis A is highly endemic, exposure to hepatitis A virus (HAV) is almost universal before the age of 10years, and large-scale immunization efforts are not required. In contrast, in areas of intermediate endemicity or in transition from high to intermediate endemicity, where transmission occurs primarily from person to person in the general community (often with periodic outbreaks), control of hepatitis A may be achieved through widespread vaccination programmes. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one of the world's most widespread infectious agents and the cause of millions of infections each year. Between 500,000 and 700,000 people die each year from chronic infection-related cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or from acute hepatitis B. Hepatitis B vaccine provides protection against infection and its complications including liver cirrhosis and HCC. It is therefore, the first vaccine against a cancer, the first vaccine protecting from a sexually transmitted infection, and the first vaccine against a chronic disease ever licensed. Control and significant reduction in incidence of new HBV infections as well as hepatocellular carcinoma has repeatedly been reported in countries in East Asia (i.e. Taiwan) and Africa (i.e. The Gambia). Two experimental vaccines against hepatitis E have been developed; one of them has been recently licensed but is not yet widely available. Attempts to develop a hepatitis C vaccine were so far unsuccesful.