According to new estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), the proportion of children under the age of five who are chronically infected with hepatitis B (HBV) dropped to just under 1% in 2019. This figure is down from around 5% in the pre-vaccine era, the period between the 1980s and the early 2000s, and marks the achievement of one of the milestone targets to eliminate viral hepatitis in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The WHO is calling for further action to build on this achievement through intensified efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HBV. Their recommendations include the testing of pregnant women and the provision of antiviral prophylaxis to those who need it, and maintaining and expanding access to hepatitis B immunization and birth dose vaccine.
Globally, more than 250 million people are living with chronic HBV infection. Infants are especially vulnerable and around 90% of children infected with HBV in their first year of life become chronic HBV carriers. HBV attacks the liver and claims the lives of nearly 900,000 people each year.
Source: WHO, 27 July 2020