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U.S. Falls Short in Reaching 2020 Goals for Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B Foundation Calls for Increased Resources To Address Rising Acute Hepatitis B Infections, Disparities in Hepatitis B- Related Death Rates, and Lagging Birth Dose Rates

DOYLESTOWN PA (September 18, 2019): The U.S. is falling short of targets for hepatitis B vaccination, and for reducing new hepatitis B cases, according to the 2019 National Viral Hepatitis Progress Report, released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While some progress has been made towards reducing hepatitis B-related deaths in the U.S., leaders from the Hepatitis B Foundation call for an increased focus on hepatitis B prevention in order to meet goals set by the CDC for 2020.

The 2019 Progress Report indicates that we have met the 2020 goal for reducing the rate of hepatitis B-related deaths. While we are happy to see this progress, according to the 2017 Viral Hepatitis Surveillance Report released last week, hepatitis B-related mortality rates are over 5.3 times higher among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 1.6 times higher among Black Americans. These data show that the communities most impacted by hepatitis B are still dying from the consequences. The Hepatitis B Foundation calls on the CDC, as they develop future viral hepatitis goals, to include the elimination of mortality-related disparities among highly impacted groups.

The 2020 vaccination goal is to ensure that 85% of infants born in the U.S. receive the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, a critical component of hepatitis B prevention, within three days of birth. Babies who receive the birth dose are more likely to complete the vaccine series on schedule, and universal implementation of the birth dose helps prevent mother-to-child transmission. However, according to the report, only 73.6% of U.S. infants are being vaccinated on schedule. While this is a small increase from 2016 (71.1%), it falls well short of the 2020 goal, and would require a focused effort to meet the goal within the next year. “We need to identify areas of the U.S. that have low birth dose rates, assess their challenges and barriers, and design strategies to improve the percentage of babies that receive the birth dose,” stated Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Senior Vice President at the Hepatitis B Foundation. “This can’t be done without additional funding and resources.”

Alarmingly, the report documents the recent pattern of increasing cases of acute hepatitis B infection. Since 2014, the rate has increased 19%, likely driven by low adult vaccine rates and the rise of opioid-related infections. “This is a disappointing reversal of three-decades of decreasing rates of acute hepatitis B,” said Kate Moraras, MPH, Senior Program Director, Hepatitis B Foundation. “This report demonstrates an urgent need to dedicate more resources to preventing hepatitis B among adults in order to meet 2020 goals. Currently only 25% of adults have been vaccinated and hepatitis B is often not included in efforts to address infections related to the opioid crisis.”

The progress report reveals the lack of prioritization and insufficient funding for viral hepatitis prevention programs in the U.S. The Hepatitis B Foundation calls on Congress to increase federal resources to support the elimination of hepatitis B and research for a cure.

About Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is one of the world’s most common infections and the primary cause of liver cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the world. Two billion people (1 in 3) have been infected with the hepatitis B virus, more than 292 million are chronically infected, and almost 1 million people die each year from hepatitis B-related liver failure and liver cancer. In the U.S., up to 2.2 million are chronically infected - yet most do not know it. Without early diagnosis and intervention, one in four people living with hepatitis B will die prematurely from liver failure or liver cancer. The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood, unprotected sex, unsterile needles, and from an infected mother to her newborn due to blood exchange during delivery. Although hepatitis B is preventable and treatable, there is still no complete cure for this deadly liver infection.

About the Hepatitis B Foundation: The Hepatitis B Foundation is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. To learn more, visit www.hepb.org, read our blog at hepb.org/blog, follow us on Twitter @HepBFoundation, find us on Facebook at facebook.com/hepbfoundation or call 215-489-4900.

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