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Study explains why Hepatitis B vaccine uptake is dismally low in India

IANS Mar 23, 2024

Despite the availability of an effective vaccine against the Hepatitis B virus for over 30 years, its uptake has been low in India due to poor knowledge and lack of awareness, according to a study by a hospital in New Delhi.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major global health issue, affecting around 296 million people globally and causing approximately 887,000 deaths yearly due to complications like liver end-stage liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

India has about “37 million HBV carriers”, said the researchers in the paper. Yet the knowledge about the disease as well as the preventive vaccine was found to be low.

The team surveyed 3,500 participants, excluding healthcare workers and individuals below 18 years.

Their findings, published in the online platform Cureus, showed that just 25 per cent of people had adequate knowledge about the virus, such as its transmission methods, effects on the liver, and the critical importance of vaccination.

Further, only 22.7 per cent of people were found to have completed the full Hepatitis B vaccination course.

“This low vaccination rate is alarming, especially considering the virus's prevalence and the vaccine's effectiveness in preventing infection development of advanced liver disease called cirrhosis and liver cancer,” the principal investigator Dr. Anil Arora, Institute of Liver, Gastroenterology, and Pancreatico-Biliary Sciences, at hospital in New Delhi, in a statement on March 22.

The study also highlighted disparities in vaccination uptake gender, education levels, and the urban-rural divide.

Dr Anil emphasised the need for targeted public health interventions to improve awareness and vaccination coverage.

“Educational campaigns should focus on the general public, with particular emphasis on females, older individuals, those with lower education levels, and rural residents, who demonstrated lower knowledge scores and vaccination rates in the study participants.

“In addition, efforts should be made to increase awareness about the importance of completing the full vaccination schedule, for adequate efficacy as it was not uncommon for people to have one or two doses of vaccination and forget the last one,” the doctor said.

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