Children in the UK should be routinely vaccinated against hepatitis B in early infancy, a disease expert claims.
Andrew Pollard, Reader in Paediatric Infection and Immunity at Oxford University, said the move could eventually wipe the virus out.
The UK is one of the few developed countries that does not routinely immunise children against hepatitis B, despite a call by the World Health Organisation for the global introduction of vaccine prevention programmes by 1997.
And earlier this year, the British Medical Association (BMA) also urged the Department of Health to introduce the vaccine.
Some campaigners claim there is no need for universal immunisation as the UK has relatively few cases of the disease.
But Mr Pollard claims 180,000 people in the UK are chronically infected with hepatitis B, and 7,700 new cases of chronic infection are detected each year, while increases in foreign travel and migration will only add to the problem.
He is now calling on the government to adopt the same method widely used in Europe, whereby the hepatitis B vaccine is added to the current UK primary immunisation schedule in early infancy.