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Experts suggest hepatitis B progress
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-18 05:32

SHANGHAI: Domestic medical experts urged the government to improve the vaccination programmes against hepatitis B, one of the most widely spread contagious disease in the country.

The country, with one-third of the total 385 million chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) carriers in the world, has currently only 70 per cent of its population vaccinated against the disease, said Professor Zhuang Hui from the Health Science Centre of Peking University in Beijing.

Since there is no rudimentary solution in place globally to control chronic hepatitis B today, the only effective way to stop the spread of this contagious disease is vaccination.

"The government has made some effort, but obviously not enough," Zhuang said.

Although health watchdogs began to promote the vaccination against HBV in some big cities, it was not until 2002 that China finally initiated free vaccination for all new-born babies.

But Zhuang said the implementation is poor in western parts of China, such as Tibet, where only about 8 per cent of local people are vaccinated against HBV.

In a lot of hospitals, especially in small cities and rural areas, vaccinations are being carried out in an improper way.

"A baby must take three shots, when it is born, at one month old and at three months old to become fully inoculated against HBV. But many just take one or two shots," Zhuang said.

"Even the first shot often fails to follow the correct instruction that it should be taken within 24 hours after the baby is born in some hospitals."

A survey into 1-year-old babies in China who had received the HBV vaccination was finished in 2002 and found that 3.1 per cent of them were affected with HBV, down by about 6 per cent on the 1995 figures.

"But that figure is still two times higher than what the World Health Organization suggests for necessary prevention against the disease," Zhuang said.

Chronic HBV carriers are confronted with serious discrimination inside the country, where "most ordinary people have incorrect concept about the disease," said Cheng Jun, a senior doctor in Beijing Ditan Hospital, which is the best in treating contagious diseases domestically.

Though no single medicine can completely cure the disease, scientists remain optimistic. Cheng said.

(China Daily 07/18/2005 page2)

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