PESHAWAR: Incidence of hepatitis B among children has declined due to vaccination of newborns at the government hospitals in the province, according to relevant officials.

“The vaccination to newborns against hepatitis B has proved effective as its prevalence has come down.

“We have vaccinated 97,000 newborn babies in labour room of the hospitals free of cost in 2017,” Dr Kalimullah Khan, head of the Hepatitis Control Programme, told Dawn.

He said that last year, they immunised 80,000 babies as part of the initiative to protect the coming generation from viral infection. He said that there was no definite treatment of hepatitis B throughout the world and vaccination was the best option to safeguard children.

Dr Kalim said that there were three doses of vaccines given to children. He said that the first dose was given to them at time of birth while second and third doses were given after three and six months respectively.

Dr Kalim said that vaccination was effective in 98 per cent cases.

Some of the babies missed vaccination due to late deliveries at the labour rooms that were traced by the expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) staff to inoculate them, he said. He added that mothers were being advised at the hospitals to get second and third dose at the EPI centres.

“KP is the only province in Pakistan to have started vaccination of newborns at hospitals. Taking complete dose of vaccination ensures lifelong protection against hepatitis B,” said Dr Kalim.

He said that the vaccinated children could only develop hepatitis B in case he or she got injection through infected needle.

“As opposed to hepatitis C, which is completely curable and the new pills taken by the patients ensure 100 per efficacy rate, hepatitis B is extremely dangerous. It is regarded as silent killers by the medical scholars,” said Dr Kalim.

He said that each hospital got stock of vaccines on quarterly basis from the health department. “We have already conducted training for nurses involved in deliveries so they could immunise the newborn babies soon after birth. The vaccines for adult and children are the same but the former get 1mililitre in a single dose while for the latter it is half milliliter,” he added.

Dr Kalim said that children up to 12 years couldn’t be treated for hepatitis B and C as the disease was self-limiting but vaccination saved them for their entire life against hepatitis B. He said that C type of the disease had no vaccination but its treatment was available whereas B was preventable through vaccination but there was no specific treatment.

Dr Kalim said that prevalence of hepatitis B in children was only one per cent and C about five per cent.

He said that alongside vaccination, they also held campaign to inform people about preventive side of the ailment among children.

“Our campaign seeks to prevail upon the people to bring their children to hospitals for circumcision and pierce their nose and ear through sterilised instruments. Children shouldn’t be taken to clinics or hospitals run by unauthorised people where the chances of contaminated syringes and instrument can infect them,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2018