July 26, 2019, New Delhi: World Health Organization announced that Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Thailand have become the first countries in WHO South-East Asia Region to achieve Hepatitis B control, with prevalence of the deadly disease dropping to less than one per cent among five-year-old children.
“Unwavering determination to reach every child, everywhere, every time, with life-saving Hepatitis B vaccines through childhood immunization, has made this achievement possible. These successes are a testimony of the countries’ commitment to health of their people, and the untiring efforts being made by health workers and communities for the well-being of children,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.
The Expert Panel for Verification of Hepatitis B Control in WHO South-East Asia Region recommended verification of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand, after reviewing childhood immunization data that showed consistent over 90% coverage with Hepatitis B vaccine doses provided during infancy for past many years. Studies conducted among five-year old children in these countries corroborated the high immunization rates, and that Hepatitis B prevalence in these four countries among children was less than one per cent.
Preventing Hepatitis B infection in infancy substantially reduces chronic infections and cases of liver cancer and cirrhosis in adulthood.
Hepatitis B control through immunization gained momentum in the WHO South-East Asia Region with countries endorsing it as a target by 2020, as part of the South-East Asia Regional Vaccine Action Plan.