new vaccine is now available to cut the risk of hepatitis B in all new born babies as Public Health England (PHE) unveils a new immunisation programme.
From 1 August, all babies born will be offered the Hexavalent jab which provides ‘six-in-one’ protection against hepatitis B, as well as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Hib.
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Widely used already for 150 million babies in 97 countries, it replaces an existing ‘five-in-one’ vaccine. There has been no change to the immunisation schedule or to the number of injections and children will continue to be immunised at the ages of 8, 12 and 16 weeks as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule.
The only change is to the components of the vaccine itself which now provides extra protection for hepatitis B, which is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer in later life.
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PHE’s head of immunisation Mary Ramsay said: ‘Until today, only children at high risk of hepatitis B would be immunised. The introduction of Hexavalent vaccine means that all children will now be routinely protected against this serious infection.
‘The Hexavalent vaccine has been extensively tested and shown to be safe and is widely used internationally with millions of doses being given around the world.’
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By introducing Hexavalent, the UK government has signed up to the WHO global hepatitis strategy to work towards elimination of viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030.
People with hepatitis B infection may not be aware that they are infected as chronic infection mostly has no symptoms. Vaccinating children is hoped to protect them in childhood from potential exposure to infected household or family members.