News from Hepatitis Week of Jan. 19, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 03

Britain Considers Mass Program of Hepatitis B Vaccinations

With the number of hepatitis B sufferers rising due to immigration, Britain is considering a mass program of vaccination for children and teenagers.

Britain's current policy is to vaccinate only babies born to infected mothers and some drug users.

Unlike other European countries, the United Kingdom does not have vaccination programs for hepatitis B because of the still relatively low number of hepatitis B cases, around 600 annually, and because of concerns that the vaccine potentially causes side effects such as multiple sclerosis and paralysis.

But the influx of 6,000 infected people annually into the country is creating growing pressure for wide-scale vaccination.

A panel created by Britain's Department of Health is looking into the possibility of mandatory vaccinations for children and teenagers. A report is due later this year.

Dr. Roger Williams, who directs the Institute of Hepatology at the University College London, favors vaccinating children. "The only way of reaching the whole uninfected population is by vaccination at birth," he told the BBC.

Other sources: BBC