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HBV Vaccinations Save Lives, Reduce New Infections: National Adult Hepatitis B Vaccination Awareness Day

Doylestown, Pa., April 30, 2020 – Only one quarter of all adults in the United States ages 19 and older are fully vaccinated against hepatitis B, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine for more than 30 years.

Today, on National Adult Hepatitis B Vaccination Awareness Day, the Hepatitis B Foundation is calling for an increased commitment to improving adult hepatitis B vaccination coverage in the United States to reduce the number of new hepatitis B infections and hepatitis B-related deaths.

National Adult Hepatitis B Vaccination Awareness Day was proposed last year on April 30 by companion resolutions H.Res. 331 and S.Res. 177. The resolutions were introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Rep. Grace Meng of New York, co-chairs of the Congressional Hepatitis Caucus, and Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Sen. Angus King of Maine. Along with supporting the designation of April 30 as Awareness Day, the resolutions recognize the importance of hepatitis B testing, vaccination and linkage to care; encourage a commitment to increasing adult HBV vaccination rates and maintaining childhood HBV vaccination rates; and promote greater awareness among providers and the general public. 

As the nation is seeing increases in new hepatitis B cases tied injection drug use and the opioid crisis, understanding and addressing barriers to hepatitis B vaccination among adults has become increasingly important. Immunization rates also are low among other populations at high risk of hepatitis B, including people living with hepatitis C, HIV, kidney disease or diabetes. Just 12% of adults with diabetes ages 60 and older and only 26% of adults with diabetes ages 19 to 59 have received the complete vaccine series. Even among health care personnel, only 60% have completed the vaccine series, leaving many frontline workers susceptible to hepatitis B infection.

“With hepatitis B being the number one cause of liver cancer globally, and one in four individuals with undiagnosed and unmanaged hepatitis B dying from liver cancer, cirrhosis or liver failure, we must do more to increase hepatitis B awareness and vaccination,” said Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Senior Vice President of the Hepatitis B Foundation. “While there is no cure yet for hepatitis B, we have the opportunity to prevent this life-threatening disease and liver cancer deaths through vaccination.”

The modern hepatitis B vaccine, which was introduced in 1985, is widely used and among the safest and most effective vaccines in the world, but it requires three doses. A new two-dose vaccine was introduced recently and is highly effective in populations that may be harder to vaccinate, such as older adults and people living with diabetes. You can read more in a new blog post from the Hepatitis B Foundation.

Next week, the Foundation will be launching a new hepatitis B prevention policy program, based in Washington, D.C. The goals are to expand the Hepatitis B Foundation’s policy and advocacy initiatives and increase engagement with Congressional, federal and state health agency partners to improve hepatitis B prevention and vaccination infrastructure and strategies.