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Global shortage of hepatitis B adult vaccine

11 April 2017

Hepatitis Victoria has been advised that there is currently a global shortage in the hepatitis B adult vaccine.

The shortage is limited to the availability of the vaccine in the private market - that is for people not eligible for free immunisation.

Importantly public clinics have ample supply.  For Victorians, this means that vaccine is available for people eligible for free immunisation against hepatitis B including: 

  • newborns
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • household contacts and sexual partners of people living with hepatitis B
  • people who inject drugs or are on opioid substitution therapy
  • people living with hepatitis C
  • gay and bisexual men
  • people living with HIV
  • prisoners and those on remand who do not have hepatitis B or immunity against hepatitis B
  • people no longer in a custodial setting who commenced, but did not complete, a free vaccine course while in custody.

The shortage is expected to continue until the end of the year.

Hepatitis B is spread through the blood or sexual fluids (vaginal fluids or semen) of an infected person entering the blood stream of a non-infected person. It is also transmitted from mother to baby during birth. The hepatitis B virus cannot penetrate unbroken skin and is killed by the digestive juices in the stomach if it is swallowed.

While vaccination is the best prevention against hepatitis B, there are some very simple way of reducing the risk of transmission. This includes:

  • Diagnosis and monitoring of pregnant women with hepatitis B - babies born to hepatitis B positive mothers can be given vaccination and hepatitis B immunoglobulin at birth, which reduces the risk of hepatitis B transmission to only 5%. Mothers with very high viral loads can also be treated during pregnancy to prevent transmission.         
  • Practicing safe sex 
  • Not sharing injecting equipment 
  • Ensuring body art or piecing procedures are undertaken under sterile conditions, with single-use needles 
  • Not sharing razor blades, toothbrushes or other personal grooming aids 

Further Information

How to prevent hepatitis B

Immunisationing for hepatitis B (including find out if you're eligible for the free vaccination in Victoria)

Call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 703 003 for support or any questions you have

 

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