In a new video to mark World Immunization Week (24–30 April), Dr Catherine de Martel of the Early Detection, Prevention, and Infections Branch at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) highlights the importance of vaccination against hepatitis B virus (HBV). Chronic HBV infection can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Acute infection can also be fatal in some cases.
In 2015, more than 250 million people were living with chronic HBV infection and more than 1.3 million people died from the consequences of viral hepatitis infection. HBV infection can be prevented through vaccination, and it is critically important to vaccinate people as early as possible in their lives, ideally within the first 24 hours after birth, because age at infection greatly influences whether a person will develop chronic infection. About 90% of people who become infected with HBV in their first year of life develop chronic illness, compared with less than 5% of those who are infected as adults.
In the video, Dr de Martel describes the strides being made against HBV infection and the current World Health Organization recommendations for the prevention and monitoring of HBV infection worldwide.