Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
Advances in the fight against hepatitis. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1997, vol.1, n.4, pp. 333-334. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891997000400024.
Infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) is responsible for 80% of the cases of primary liver cancer and cirrhosis worldwide. Every year almost a million people, of whom 25% are chronic carriers of the virus, die from these diseases. Anti-HBV vaccine is the best means of prevention and can be considered the first immunization against a type of cancer, owing to the sequelae that hepatitis produces in many chronically infected patients. This vaccine is made from the surface antigen of hepatitis B virus (HBsAg); it is manufactured from plasma derivatives or through recombinant DNA and confers up to 95% protection. It is suggested that this vaccine be given at the same time as other vaccines to avoid the need for additional contacts with the immunization services. In 1992 the World Health Assembly proposed that the vaccine should be available in all countries by 1997. In its Ninth General Program of Work, WHO established the goal of reducing the number of new carriers by 80% through the introduction of this vaccine into national child immunization programs. Recently, a quadrivalent DTP-HB vaccine has been produced, resulting in increased benefits and lower cost. However, countries should not wait until the combined vaccines are marketed to begin vaccination against hepatitis B.