Shenzhen's hepatitis B jabs for all

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 12:00am

Everyone living or working in Shenzhen is to be vaccinated against hepatitis B under a pilot programme to stem the nationwide spread of the disease.

Announcing the measure yesterday, the Chinese Foundation for Prevention of Hepatitis said that each year 100 million people were infected with hepatitis B, of whom 280,000 died.

Hepatitis B is the worst fatal disease affecting the mainland.

Two-thirds of the world's hepatitis B sufferers are on the mainland.

The foundation said the vaccines would be free.

The Shenzhen Disease and Epidemic Control Centre has been in charge of planning the mass immunisation.

If successful, the programme will be expanded throughout the country.

Hepatitis B is a virus transmitted in bodily fluids and can be passed on sexually, by sharing needles, in hospitals or through blood transfusions. It can damage the liver and cause liver cancer, liver failure and death.

In 2002, the central government and the Vaccine Fund charity launched a US$75 million, five-year plan to inoculate 35 million new-borns. Shenzhen was also selected as one of the areas for implementing the plan.

The cost of a three-shot course of hepatitis B vaccine is US$4. Despite the low cost, China's immunisation rate is low, particularly in rural areas, where only 10 to 40 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.