The new Hepatitis B vaccine schedule can be completed in one month rather than the present 6 month schedule

A new Hepatitis B vaccine that was approved by the USFDA last year and has now been recommended for use in the US in all adults, marks a massive stride in Hepatitis B vaccines.

The new vaccine can be fully administered over a period of one month unlike the existing one in use in India which takes six months for the full schedule to be completed. Though Hep B is one of the vaccines in the universal immunisation basket in India, the 6 month schedule often affects compliance.

The novelty of the new vaccine  is that the immunization schedule can be completed in a month ensuring better patient compliance. Till date it is recommended for use in adults over the age of 18 years only.

The vaccine- Heplisav-B (HepB-CpG; Dynavax Technologies Corporation) has been developed using yeast derived products. It had received the approval of the USFDA – the US drug regulator in 2017. Recently, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Hepatitis Vaccines Work Group- has recommended use of the vaccine in adults over the age of 18 years.

The novelty of the new vaccine  is that the immunization schedule can be completed in a month ensuring better patient compliance. Till date it is recommended for use in people over the age of 18 years only.

Effectiveness of Hepatitis B vaccine is evaluated by the level of protective substances called antibodies that develop in the body after a shot of the vaccine. Research has shown that significantly more (90-100%) people who received the newer vaccine developed protective antibodies to Hep B compared to people who received the older vaccine (70.5% – 90.2%).

An estimated 257 million people the world over  are living with Hepatitis B virus infection (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen positive). In 2015, Hepatitis B resulted in 887,000 deaths, mostly from complications (including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma). Hepatitis B is most prevalent in South East Asian countries and in sub Saharan Africa. India has almost 50 million sufferers from the disease.

Hep B vaccine has been incorporated as part of the universal immunization schedule in India since 2014. It is also available in the private sector for administration to adults. Current vaccination protocol mandates three doses of vaccine- given over a time period of 6 months. Researchers have found that patients, especially when they are getting the shot as adults, often fail to adhere to this lengthy schedule.

Though, the new vaccine shot is still not available in India, it raises hope that once available it will lead to better immunization coverage for Indians.

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