Feature Articles

World Hepatitis Day Campaign: Screening and vaccination to prevent Hepatitis B

Ref Number: ESEAOR201407

  • Date1 Jul 2014
  • Category FPA Message
  • Targets Public
  • AuthorFPAHK
  • Topic Health Knowledge

World Hepatitis Day is an annual event on 28th July (28.7) to raise public awareness of viral hepatitis and advocate for disease prevention. Despite a general falling trend over the years, the overall prevalence of acute Hepatitis B in Hong Kong is still regarded as moderately high among adult population. Persons 26 years old or older have not benefitted from the universal neonatal vaccination program introduced in November 1988, and are therefore at risk of Hepatitis B infection. To encourage screening and vaccination against Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK) and ASIAHEP Hong Kong Limited launched the Hepatitis B Prevention for n-Persons Campaign, offering a discounted service package to persons who have no neonatal vaccination, no HBV antibody and no HBV antigen.

Giving an updated local picture on Hepatitis B, Dr. Nancy Leung, Chairperson of ASIAHEP and also Honorary Medical Consultant of FPAHK’s Hepatitis B Assessment Clinic, said approximately 8%* of Hong Kong’s population has chronic Hepatitis B infection. The virus is transmitted through blood and body fluids. Most chronically infected with HBV are asymptomatic and can transmit the virus to their spouses or partners and the next generation. Sexual contact and mother to newborn transmission are major routes of transmission in Hong Kong. Transmission may also occur through sharing of syringes, razors, toothbrushes and nail clippers, etc. About one in four cases of chronic infection develop into serious liver diseases including cirrhosis and cancer, leading to early death. Dr. Leung noted that in 2011, liver cancer was the third cancer killer among Hong Kong men.

The prevalence of HBV antigen (HBsAg) among FPAHK’s Pre-marital / Pre-pregnancy Package Service users fell from 9.6% in 1990 to 5.1% in 2001, but subsequently rose again to hover at around 7% in the past decade. Since Hong Kong introduced universal neonatal Hepatitis B vaccination in 1988, all newborns have been vaccinated free of charge resulting in a low infection rate among the 26-year-old or younger. However people born locally before November 1988 were not covered by the program and are therefore susceptible to Hepatitis B infection.

Dr. Susan Fan, FPAHK’s Executive Director, stressed the importance of screening and vaccination as the most effective means of preventing Hepatitis B. She urged people who are 26 years old or above to undergo screening for HBV antibody and antigen. Those who have neither antibody nor antigen should be vaccinated.

FPAHK and ASIAHEP Hong Kong Limited jointly launched the Hepatitis B Prevention for n-Persons campaign on 28th July (28.7), World Hepatitis Day. The Campaign offered a screening and vaccination service package at a discounted fee of $287 (normally charged at $670) for 287 eligible persons (who were born before November 1988 and have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis B). Participants who are screened to be non-immune and non-infected with the virus (n-Persons) will receive 3 doses of Hepatitis B vaccine which are included in the package. Those who test negative for antigen (HBsAg) and positive for antibody (anti-HBs) are already immune and need no vaccination. Those who test positive for antigen are chronically infected and will be referred for follow-up management, including assessment of disease activities and regular monitoring or treatment.

The Campaign received overwhelming public response. The quota of 287 eligible persons for the Screening and Vaccination Service Package at the discounted fee of $287 was filled up soon after the Campaign launch. FPAHK quickly mobilized more resources to top-up the quota by another 287 places.