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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686


SCHOUB, B.D. et al. Universal immunization of infants with low doses of a low-cost, plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine in South Africa. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2002, vol.80, n.4, pp.277-281. ISSN 0042-9686.

OBJETIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of universal vaccination against viral hepatitis B in South Africa among 18-month-old rural children. METHODS: Children were immunized with a course of low-dose (1.5 mg), plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age, and blood samples from the children were tested for three hepatitis B markers: hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), anti-HBs and anti-HBc. FINDINGS: One year after vaccination, a protective anti-HBs antibody titre of at least 10 IU/l was present in 669/769 (87.0%) of blood serum samples tested. Only 3/756 children (0.4%) were HBsAg positive and a fourth child was anti-HBc positive (HBsAg negative). This is a marked decrease compared to the hepatitis B prevalences reported in previous studies. Among rural migrant mine-workers, for example, HBsAg prevalence was 9.9%, and was 10.1% among children 0-6 years of age in the Eastern Cape Province. CONCLUSION: The low-dose, plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine, which is affordable to most developing countries, was very successful in controlling endemic hepatitis B infection, where the virus is predominantly spread by horizontal transmission among infants and young children.

Keywords : Hepatitis B vaccines [administration and dosage]; Hepatitis B vaccines [economics]; Hepatitis B surface antigens [blood]; Child; Endemic diseases [immunology]; Immunization programs; Evaluation studies; Cross-sectional studies; South Africa.

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