Half of GP practices are reportedly not following clinical guidelines on protecting children from hepatitis B.
Now patient groups are calling on the government to vaccinate all British children against the life-threatening disease, which is incurable and 50 times more infectious than HIV. They say the current policy of only vaccinating those deemed high-risk is failing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) called for countries to introduce universal childhood immunisation against the disease over 15 years ago. Since then, 116 countries have complied, but the UK is not among them.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, in conjunction with the British Liver Trust and the Hepatitis B Foundation, is demanding that the government takes urgent action following a report by Target Hepatitis.
Chronic hepatitis B affects more than 325,000 patients in the UK alone and can develop into potentially fatal conditions such as liver cancer and cirrhosis. It cannot be cured but, with a simple and effective vaccine, it can be prevented.
A recent investigation into NHS use of the vaccine found only half of GP practices are following clinical guidelines on protecting patients.
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"Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease which is got through casual sex, by drug users and sometimes from an infected mother. Only babies born to Hepatitis B infected mothers are at risk of developing it. All other babies, which is the majority of babies, are at ZERO risk of developing Hepatitis B. It is not a childhood disease and I'm sure you'll agree that a newborn or small child is not going to be having sex anytime soon. Patient groups should get educated as to the causes of the disease before they start advocating a vaccine for a disease that most kids have no chance of getting. I am a mother of five and none of my children will ever receive this jab" – Joanna Karpasea-Jones, Nottingham