PNG launches Hepatitis B vaccination for its health care workers
To protect health care workers from the consequences of occupational exposure to hepatitis B virus (HBV), the world’s second most potent carcinogen, the National Department of Health of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and partners including WHO and AusAID launched a health care worker vaccination programme on 19 February 2013.
The Hepatitis B vaccine will be administered to all cadres of the health workers in the country presently engaged in the health care delivery system in all 22 of the country’s provinces. The required three doses of vaccine procured by the Government of PNG will be provided to all health staff in the country at their place of work.
A health worker in any country is an asset; however, they are at risk of infection with blood-borne viruses including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses as they are exposed to blood and other body fluids in the course of their work. Infected health care workers not only suffer morbidity and mortality as a result of infection but may also transmit the virus to other staff members and susceptible patients.
This is the first large-scale hepatitis B vaccination programme specifically aiming to protect health workers in PNG. “We need to protect our health workers who make efforts to keep us healthy” said Dr. William Lagani Manager Family Health Services while launching the initiative on behalf of Mr. Pascoe Kase, Secretary for Health.
It is estimated that globally around 240 million people have chronic HBV infection. It is therefore imperative that the risk of HBV infection among health workers be minimized through vaccination, implementation of universal precautions, and post-exposure prophylaxis.
Both the WHO Country Representative and Country Programme Director of AusAID thanked the Government of PNG in taking this lead role in vaccinating and protecting their country’s valuable health care workers.