Government public health advisors are considering introducing a hepatitis B vaccine into the routine infant immunisation schedule, to bring it in line with World Health Organization recommendations.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said a promising new vaccine was available that included a hep B component, while another was in the pipeline.
Minutes from the committee’s latest board meetings stated: ‘The chair noted that this now offered the opportunity to secure a childhood vaccine which included a hepatitis B component.’
The JCVI secretariat explained to Pulse: ‘There is [now] a vaccine available that combines a hepatitis B component with the other components used in the childhood vaccination schedule for pertussis, diptheria, tetanus polio and [haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib)] (Infanrix hexa) – and another vaccine is on the way.
‘Previously there had been concerns over an Infanrix type vaccine which did not produce a strong enough response to the Hib component, but since then an Infanrix vaccine with a Hib component (Infanrix IPV+Hib) has been introduced into the childhood schedule as it met certain immunogenicity criteria for the Hib component.
‘Although it is likely that the Infanrix hexa will also meet the criteria, there is an ongoing study of Infanrix hexa to check that this is the case.’
GPs have, since April this year, been paid to complete hep B vaccinations in babies who are at high risk of contracting the disease.
Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC joint lead on vaccinations and immunisations, said the routine vaccination of all children against hepatitis B had been introduced in other countries but that including it in the infant schedule would ‘need to be looked at carefully’.
Dr Vautrey said: ‘It’s definitely a possibility – it depends on the cost-effectiveness but it’s been introduced in other countries.
‘However, I think it is something that needs to be looked at carefully in terms of how it fits with the existing immunisations and how we can ensure that parents in particular are confident that it is the right thing for their children.’