World Hepatitis Day

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Vaccines critical to protecting children against hepatitis B

HepB Sierra Leone

World Hepatitis Day is 28 July

Hepatitis is a potentially fatal disease of the liver that affects one in 12 people worldwide. But the symptoms are often hidden and therefore the disease goes undiagnosed and untreated.

About 1 million people die every year because of viral hepatitis infections. Types B and C are especially serious. They lead to chronic infection in millions of people, and, together, are the most common cause of cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.

GAVI’s investments in hepatitis B

With GAVI support, 296 million children in low-income countries were immunised against hepatitis B from 2000 to 2011. By the end of 2011, GAVI had helped countries avert 5.5 million future deaths otherwise caused by hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae (Hib), measles, pertussis, pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea and yellow fever – of which 3.7 million were due to the roll out of the hepatitis B vaccine. GAVI will accelerate this effort and plans to support the immunisation of a further 230 million children against hepatitis B by 2015.

Over the past decade, GAVI support has encouraged new vaccine manufacturers from both developing and industrialised countries to enter the market, which in turn has helped to reduce vaccine prices and ensure an uninterrupted supply of vaccines to GAVI-supported countries. Between 2000 and 2011, the price of the hepatitis B vaccine dropped by 69% - from US$ 0.56 to US$ 0.18 per dose.

Quick facts

  • Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
  • 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with the virus.
  • More than 240 million have chronic (long-term) liver infections.
  • About 600 000 people die every year due to the consequences of hepatitis B.
  • The hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
  • The hepatitis B vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection. It is the first vaccine against a major human cancer.
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