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Selective hep B vaccination programme for children

The UK is set to introduce a policy of selective hepatitis B vaccination for children after Government advisers backed the move in principle.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said it favoured the 'Dutch approach', with vaccination for children where at least one parent came from a high-risk country.

Some PCTs in areas with large immigrant populations would need to introduce a policy of universal vaccination, the committee ruled. It is now setting up an advisory group to look at which areas would need to vaccinate all children.

But the RCGP expressed concern that not all at-risk children in the UK would be easily identified, with some likely to miss out on vaccination.

Dr George Kassianos, the college's immunisation spokesperson and a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, said: 'If we go for that option we will know the children who are here that are legal, but we will miss the illegal immigrants. In addition to that, targeted immunisation has not been a success in primary care.'

He said a national programme of immunisation was needed for children, and a catch-up programme for adolescents.

'Our children and young people deserve this vaccine, at a time when we are travelling so far around the world, not living on an isolated island.'

In 1992 the World Health Organisation recommended integration of hepatitis B into immunisation programmes by 1995 for countries with a prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen of 8 per cent or more, and for all countries by 1997. By the end of 2001, 136 of the 191 WHO members states had done so.

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