Saturday, April 1, 2023

Panel: All adults in the United States under 60 should be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

NEW YORK (AP). On Wednesday, a government advisory committee recommended that all adults in the United States under the age of 60 be vaccinated against hepatitis B, as progress in the fight against liver disease has stalled.

The decision means that tens of millions of adults in the United States – mostly between the ages of 30 and 59 – will be recommended to be vaccinated. Hepatitis B vaccination became the standard for children in 1991, which means that most adults under the age of 30 are already protected.

“We are losing ground. We cannot eradicate hepatitis B in the US without a new approach, ”said Dr. Mark Weng of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted unanimously to approve the recommendation on Wednesday. The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walenski, must sign it before it becomes public policy, but it’s unclear when she will make a decision.

The virus spreads through contact with blood or other body fluids, and many recent cases have been linked to the opioid epidemic.

An estimated 1.9 million Americans are living with hepatitis B infections, although many may not experience liver damage and associated symptoms for many years. The government has set a goal to eliminate viral hepatitis as a threat by 2030.

Officials previously recommended that only adults who fall under 15 risk categories be vaccinated, including prisoners, healthcare workers, foreign travelers, patients with diabetes and certain other conditions, and people who inject drugs or have multiple sex partners.

Health authorities estimate that there are about 20,000 new infections each year. The rate remained broadly unchanged, officials said, although it increased for Americans in their 40s and 50s.

“The current risk-based strategy… has propelled public health as far as possible,” said Dr. Kevin Ault, committee member who chairs the hepatitis vaccine working group.

Vaccinations are given in two or three doses at intervals of a month or more. CDC data show that only about one-third of people at risk with diabetes and chronic liver disease have been vaccinated, and only two-thirds are suitable healthcare providers. In general, about 30% of the adult population is vaccinated.

The committee considered recommending shots for all adults. But a small majority of members voted for a maximum age of 59 for the recommendation – because it echoes the parameters of the previous recommendation for people with diabetes.

They argued that many older people are not at risk of infection, and that money and resources spent on vaccinating older people will have less of a return on reducing infections.

According to the current policy, people aged 60 and over can get the vaccinations if they wish.


The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Nation World News Desk
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