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India Should Double Coverage Of Hepatitis B Vaccine At Birth: WHO

Non-availability of Hepatitis B vaccine at all delivery points, lack of awareness among healthcare workers, and private sector adopting a different policy for the birth dose vaccination are some of the challenges in India.

Press Trust Of India

Updated:July 29, 2016, 11:38 AM IST
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India Should Double Coverage Of Hepatitis B Vaccine At Birth: WHO
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Kolkata: Coverage of Hepatitis B vaccine at birth in India should be doubled by 2020 from the current 45 per cent, by addressing the administrative and logistic issues to safeguard the young against the deadly disease, the World Health Organisation said.

WHO representative to India, Henk Bekedam, described the administration of Hepatitis B dose within 24 hours of birth as a "key challenge." Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease. If babies get infected, the virus usually remains in the body for a lifetime.

Bekedam said non-availability of Hepatitis B vaccine at all delivery points, lack of awareness among healthcare workers, and private sector adopting a different policy for the birth dose vaccination are some of the challenges in India.

"There are administrative and logistic challenges in the uptake of Hepatitis B birth dose. It is proposed that challenges identified be addressed systematically to increase coverage of Hepatitis B vaccine birth dose," Bekedam told PTI.

According to the WHO official, the convergence of efforts between RMNCH+A (Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health) and the immunisation programme is necessary to improve birth dose coverage. India should set a national target of 90 per cent birth dose coverage by 2020. Bekedam, however, described India reaching 86 per cent coverage of Hepatitis B third dose in 2015 as a "commendable" performance.

"In 2015, India reached 86 per cent coverage of Hepatitis B third dose which is commendable," he said.

The WHO is committed to supporting the Centre in "designing a comprehensive action plan for prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis with clear targets towards elimination as a public health issue", Bekedam said while talking about how the agency was assisting the India in tackling the disease.

Recently, the WHO supported the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) with evidence generation on Hepatitis C prevalence in various population groups nationwide, in order to provide more reliable estimates of the Hepatitis C disease burden, he stated.

"WHO is also supporting Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) with an injection safety project aiming to reduce demand for injections and increase the use of safety-engineered syringes for injections in health care settings.

"And as a part of this project in India, WHO is closely working with MoHFW and select state governments to take concrete steps for making injections safe, both in public and private sector," the WHO representative to India said.

It is part of WHO's project in three countries India, Egypt and Uganda. In 2015, the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) New Delhi was formally inaugurated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis and Liver Diseases, he added.

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