All babies born on or after 1 August 2017 will be offered protection against hepatitis B as part of our universal childhood immunisation programme, Public Health England has announced. This is in addition to continued protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Hib.
The hexavalent vaccine replaces the existing 5-in-1 vaccine that children routinely receive. It is already widely used with around 150 million doses having been given in 97 countries in Europe and across the world.
There has been no change to the immunisation schedule or to the number of injections and children will continue to be immunised at the ages of 8, 12 and 16 weeks as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule. The only change is to the components of the vaccine itself, which now provides extra protection for hepatitis B.
Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England said:
Until today, only children at high risk of hepatitis B would be immunised. The introduction of hexavalent vaccine means that all children will now be routinely protected against this serious infection, which is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer in later life. The hexavalent vaccine has been extensively tested and shown to be safe and is widely used internationally with millions of doses being given around the world.
The UK government has signed up to the WHO global hepatitis strategy to work towards elimination of viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030. People with hepatitis B infection may not be aware that they are infected as chronic infection mostly has no symptoms. As adults are the majority of infected individuals, vaccinating children will protect them in childhood from potential exposure to infected household or family members. Vaccinating infants will essentially reduce the risk of infection and will provide longer term protection against future exposure risks.
Find further information on the hexavalent combination vaccine programme.