The government is being urged to vaccinate all British children against hepatitis B, as opposed to the current policy of only vaccinating those who are considered to be at increased risk from the virus.
More than 15 years ago, the World Health Organization called for countries to introduce universal childhood immunisation against the disease, but the UK has yet to comply.
Chronic hepatitis B is 50 times more infectious than HIV and affects more than 325,000 patients in the UK. Symptoms include liver inflammation, vomiting, jaundice and, occasionally, death. It can develop into potentially fatal conditions such as liver cancer and cirrhosis, and once contracted cannot be cured.
Children are less likely than adults to clear the infection. Of those infected as adults or older children, more than 95% will stage a full recovery and develop protective immunity to the virus.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the British Liver Trust and the Hepatitis B Foundation have launched a petition, calling on the government to take urgent action.
While current government policy targets vaccinations at children deemed as high risk, a recent investigation found that only half of GP practices are following the guidelines.
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Do you agree that all children should be vaccinated against hepatitis B? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Yes!! I think it is madness that they are not currently offered
immunisation against hep B. This is a disease that is on the increase worldwide and is preventable. The only problem is that some people may not freely admit to putting themselves at risk and it can be hard to extract that information without causing offence. Better advertising both in the media and in health centres would help educate people and increase uptake of
the vaccine in those at risk." - Nicola Timlett, Herts
"Yes have been saying it for years. Why leave our children at risk?" - Sue Oldhamstead, Essex
"Yes we should definately vacinate our children against Hep B for all the above reasons." - Vicki Ward, Stratfor-upon-Avon
"I agree that all children should be vaccinated against hep b for all the above reasons." - Denise Leigh, Haslington Surgery
"Yes I think this is a great idea. We should also reinstate TB vaccines for all children, not just those deemed at risk." - Marian Dobinson, Newcastle
"No. There have been so many changes and additions to the childhood immunisation programme over the last few years, 4th Hib from last year and HPV from this September. When and where does it all end?" - K Tham, London
"Absolutely agree that we should vaccinate all children including babies." - Mary McBride, Newcastle Upon Thyne
"Absolutley agree hep B vaccinaton should be offered to children. It is a cancer preventing immunisation amongst other things." - Catherine Farnworth, Cheshire
"Yes, definitely." - Marnie, N16
"Yes I agree, as for the previous reasons already mentioned." - Sharon Norbury, Davyhulme
"Yes!! Most other EU countries and most recently Ireland include hep B in their primary vaccination programme. The government is happy to spend a lot of money on new HPV immunisation. Why not hep B? Risk is much greater than that of HIV etc." - Fiona Johnson, Derby
"Yes I agree, proactive as opposed to reactive, as previously quoted. It is standard in a number of countries." - David Simpson, Cardiff
"Absolutely, already started with holiday makers." - Christine Brown, Lincoln
"Yes, effective vaccine. Why put people at risk?" - Carolyn Downs, Hertfordshire
"Yes definitely. It's a crucial step toward obtaining optimum healthcare for our children who are our future." - Ann Boland, Hamilton
"Yes, most countries already do this. This country always lags behind." - Lucia Morris, Stepney, East London
"Yes, as per the WHO recommendations – this protects against liver cancer and cirrhosis." - Fiona Warthon, Cambs
"Absolutely! I cannot understand why if we are to immunise only girls with the HPV vaccine we haven't brought hep B vaccination in as a priority. The vaccine is relatively cheap and the consequences and cost to the wider community as serious." - Frances Tristram, Wiltshire
"Yes, I agree that all children should be vaccinated and hep b should be part of the immunisation schedule." - Maria Lucia Gouveia, Stockwell
"Yes, I agree as it is current practice in other European countries." - Glyn Williams, Whitechapel, London
"Yes, I do believe we have fallen behind Europe and we are putting our children at risk especially as more are travelling to high-risk areas." - Alison Musk, St Ives
"I strongly agree. Both my adult children have been vaccinated, it's only sensible. I don't necessarily feel it has to be given to babies unless at risk, but could be given at a later stage as parents already feel their babies are having so many vaccines." - J Meredith
"Yes of course, as it is in other countries." - Colin Roberts, London
"Yes, absolutely. My children were all born in Europe and the primary vaccinations include hepatitis B. It is just cost counting that stops the British government incorporating this vaccination." - Ellen Nicholson, Springmead Surgery, Chard
"Definitely. I try to give all my backpackers combined hep a/b so they aren't charged. An anticancer vaccine? Wake up government." - Susan Taylor
"Yes I agree and have been advocating this for some years." - Gillian Evans, Sunderland
"Yes..yes....YES...my three grandchildren all live on the continent and are vaccinated. We are way behind in Britain!!" - Lesley Naylor, Scotland
"Most definitely, it is on the child imms schedule for a lot of other countries. It should be available our children too. My children have been vaccinated." - Denise Taylor, North Wales
"Yes of course. I am immunised as a health professional. I have had my three children immunised, and frankly if it is good enough for my children, then it is good enough for everyone else's." - Rosalind Godson, London
"Absolutely, I cannot agree more with all the comments." - Linda, Edinburgh
"Absolutely, definitely, without a doubt children should be vaccinated!!!" - Shaun Heath, Practice Nurse
"Absolutely yes. Particularly in this ever-shrinking world of ours." - Marie Bent, Birmingham
"It goes without saying in today's climate." - Linda Jackson, Kingston-upon-Hill
"Yes I do agree all children should be vaccinated against hep B. Our current multicultural society will be further protected with the routine vaccination programme including this vaccine course." - Margaret Hughes, Cardiff/Berkshire
"I agree. It was done universally in Dubai and prevented a lot of problems in school where children can come into contact with blood much more often than you. (I was a school nurse in Dubai.)" - Carolann, Glasgow
"Yes, I think all children should be vaccinated against hep B. I also think it should be more available to adults and travellers - not just for occupational risk." - Carol Quigley, Grangemouth
"I feel that the old thiomersal problem will rear its head again. Hep b vaccines contain this." - Kate, Ardleigh
"I agree wholeheartedly. With universal hepatitis B vaccination of UK children the current 'selective' arrangement is highly complex and difficult to manage. This is a safe and easily delivered intervention that could prevent the potentially serious complications of HBV infection." - Ruth Philip, Greater Manchester HPU
"Absolutely the most sensible idea from this government for ages." - Sharon Bainbridge, Wiltshire
"Yes, I agree that all children should be vaccinated against hep B. The long-term effects of hep B are quite distressing." - Anne, NW3
"I would love all children to be vaccinated with hep B. At a recent visit to my own GP surgery I was told by the PN that my children would not require hep B vaccination for a three-week trip to Thailand and that I was being overprotective. With those sorts of attitudes in place then our children will always be exposed to risk." - Wendy, Leicester
"Yes I do agree that all children should be vaccinated against hep B, and all adults should have the choice to be vaccinated, not just those at risk. Most of us are at risk without the knowledge." - Christine Abbott-Smith, Cheshire
"Yes I vaccinate children undertaking risk assessment for travel health and cannot understand why this government is not more proactive especially with the huge increase in immigration from high-risk areas." - Mary Swinney, Hebburn Tyne and Wear
"We have vaccinated the children of parents who wish to have this injection for their children. If there is a need for herd vaccination, I am sure the government will take this on board in due course." - V Henry, N15
"Yes I have always felt that we should vaccinate all our children against hep B." - Nancy Bell, London Vale Practice
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