Xinhuanet.com recently reported on a 30-percent drop in hepatitis B vaccinations given to Chinese children in December, prompted by a vaccine-related death scare. An investigation impelled food and drug regulators to order China’s three largest hepatitis B vaccine manufacturers to stop production after reports in November of at least 17 infant deaths.
Many panicked parents declined to give their infants the vaccinations, which now has health experts warning of a rise in hepatitis B infections. The investigation has shown that nine of the infant deaths were not associated with the vaccine. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 701 Chinese parents and found that 20 percent were disinclined to allow their children to get the vaccine and close to 30 percent showed hesitation.
"It's unavoidable that a tiny portion of infants displayed adverse reactions after receiving hepatitis B vaccines because of physical differences," said Yu Jingjin, head of the disease control bureau under the National Health and Family Planning Commission. He added that the number of Chinese children with adverse reactions was not above the World Health Organization's (WHO) standard.
According to WHO, the hepatitis B vaccine is “safe and effective, and it is the best way to prevent infection." WHO also has stated that giving the hepatitis B vaccine in a series of three shots, beginning with the first dose given within 24 hours of birth, has reduced the disease to lower than 1 percent worldwide in children younger than five years old. Annually, the vaccine has prevented between 2–3 million deaths, according to WHO.