Hepatitis A Vaccine Use Could Save Many, Wipe Out the Disease
Outbreaks of hepatitis A have appeared in a variety of areas throughout the United States this year, but immunologists note that a vaccine exists for the disease and that universal administration could eliminate hepatitis A from the population. The vaccine has been available since 1995, but the U.S. government only recommends vaccination of children in 11 Western states where the risk of contracting hepatitis A is higher than in other regions. Parents and even some doctors may be hesitant to add another two shots to the vaccination schedule of every child, which at this point includes up to 20 shots against 11 illnesses before the age of two years--especially for a disease that remains relatively rare in the United States. Nevertheless, recent events have demonstrated that the disease can strike anyone at any time, and about 100 people in the United States die every year from hepatitis A, out of an estimated 100,000 that are infected with the illness annually.