Neonates Will Be Vaccinated Against Hepatitis B Virus – GHS
Vaccinated Against Hepatitis B
According to a newspaper report by the Ghanaian Times on July 27, 2023, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, announced that starting from the year 2024, newborns in Ghana will receive a Hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine at birth.
This at-birth-dose vaccine will be integrated into the country’s current childhood immunization program and administered within 24 hours of birth.
The primary objective of this at-birth vaccination is to reduce the incidence of chronic HBV infections in the population.
Hepatitis B Virus Vaccine
The vaccination campaign will be a collaborative effort between the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health, with support from the Global Fund, aiming to implement the triple elimination of Hepatitis B and Syphilis in 2024.
In addition to vaccinating newborns, the government is expanding the antenatal service package to include testing pregnant women for HBV.
Those requiring treatment will receive appropriate care.
Testing and Treatment
The government is also working on reducing the cost of medications used for the treatment of hepatitis B and C on the global market, aiming to improve access to testing and treatment.
Dr. Atsu Godwin Seake-Kwawu, the Programme Manager for the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme, stressed the need for increased interventions to combat viral hepatitis in Ghana.
In 2019 alone, the country recorded 9.1% of chronic hepatitis cases, contributing to 1.5 million new infections annually and 820,000 global deaths.
In line with the 2023 World Hepatitis Day, health experts are striving to raise awareness about hepatitis and advocate for urgent actions to prevent and control the disease.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammatory liver condition caused by various viral infections, categorized into five main types: hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, each caused by different viruses.
How the Virus is spread
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood, semen, or other body fluids, even in very small amounts. The virus can be transmitted in the following ways:
- From an infected mother to her baby during childbirth.
- Through sexual contact with an infected partner.
- Sharing contaminated needles, syringes, or drug preparation equipment (commonly associated with drug use).
- Sharing personal items like toothbrushes, razors, or medical equipment (e.g., glucose monitor) with an infected person.
- Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person.
- Occupational exposure to infected blood through needlesticks or other sharp instruments, especially in healthcare settings with poor infection control.
- People with hepatitis B can unknowingly spread the virus because they may not show any symptoms.
It’s important to note that hepatitis B is not spread through casual contact, such as kissing, sharing utensils, sneezing, coughing, hugging, breastfeeding, or consuming food and water.
Those at higher risk
Certain groups of people are at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis B, including:
- Infants born to mothers with hepatitis B.
- People born in countries where hepatitis B is common.
- Individuals who have not been vaccinated against hepatitis B and have parents from high-risk countries.
- People with hepatitis C.
- Individuals who have been incarcerated.
- Injection drug users or those who share needles.
- Sex partners of people with hepatitis B.
- People with sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- People with HIV infection.
- Men who have sex with men.
- People living with someone who has hepatitis B.
- Healthcare and public safety workers exposed to blood on the job.
- Individuals on dialysis.
- People with elevated liver enzymes.
If someone believes they have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, they should seek immediate medical attention.
Hepatitis B Virus Vaccine and Protection
The hepatitis B vaccine and/or a shot called “HBIG” (hepatitis B immune globulin) can be administered within 24 hours after potential exposure to prevent infection or lessen its severity.
Hepatitis B immune globulin contains antibodies that help fight the virus and protect the person from infection.
The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days, and during this time, it can still cause infection.
Once a person has been infected with the hepatitis B virus in the past, they cannot be infected again.
However, in some cases, the virus may “reactivate” in individuals whose immune systems are suppressed due to certain treatments, putting them at risk of becoming sick again.
Those who were infected during early childhood may have chronic infection, which means they remain infected for life and are at risk of developing severe liver disease.
Also, read: The Need For TB Prevention Choice