Researchers in Taiwan have concluded that the Taiwanese hepatitis B virus (HBV) infant vaccination program, which began in 1984, resulted in a 90-percent decrease in hepatitis B-related deaths. Chien-Jen Chen, vice president at the Genomics Research Center at Academia Sinica in Taipei, and colleagues reviewed the 30-year outcomes of the HBV immunization program in Taiwan.
For the first two years, the program vaccinated only newborns of HBV-infected mothers, but later included all newborns. In 1987, the program vaccinated preschooolers for HBV, and from 1988 to 1999 all elementary school children received the HBV vaccine. The researchers found that the rate of vaccination for persons born 1984 to 2010 was 89–97 percent. The extensive immunization resulted in a more than 90-percent reduction in chronic liver disease deaths and liver cancer between 1977 and 2004 and 80 percent fewer cases of liver cancer. Infant fulminant HBV virus deaths decreased 90 percent.
Chen noted that there were 350 million chronic HBV carriers in the world and the highest prevalence was in the Asia-Pacific region and sub-Saharan Africa. He suggested that all newborns in high-prevalence areas should be vaccinated to reduce the burden of liver disease and associated healthcare.
The full report, “Thirty-Year Outcomes of the National Hepatitis B Immunization Program in Taiwan,” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2013; 310(9):974–976, doi:10.1001/jama.2013.276701 ).