Expanded programme on immunization

Western Pacific’s commitment to hepatitis B control

Emma Gomez

Hepatitis B virus is responsible for almost 900 deaths per day in the Western Pacific Region. Because of this, in 2005, countries in the Region adopted a resolution to reduce chronic hepatitis B infection to less than 2% in children by 2012 as an interim milestone towards a regional goal of less than 1%.

This can be done with high three-dose hepatitis B vaccine coverage and ensuring the first dose is given as early as possible after birth (within 24 hours) to prevent mother-to-child infection. This strategy has been enormously effective. On a Regional level it has been estimated the 2012 milestone has been achieved - along with 27 countries. This is a commendable public health achievement.

The nine countries working to raise immunization coverage needed to meet control targets include: Cambodia, Kiribati, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, Viet Nam. These countries are showing strong commitments and actions towards meeting control targets including conducting assessments to identify barriers and ways forward and setting policies or laws to ensure birth dose vaccination is in place.