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Hepatitis B Vaccine Use Endorsed

Vaccine is Safe and Effective

January 14, 2000

Carrie Schum - 202 973 5800

Washington, D.C., January 14: A coalition of groups dedicated to the protection of the health of children and families today re-affirmed their support for use of the hepatitis B vaccine. The action was taken in response to a segment on last night's edition of the ABC newsmagazine 20/20, (which alleged that the vaccine is a cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) and should not be given to infants.)

The groups include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Liver Foundation, the Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI), the MS Society of America, PKIDs (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases), and the Vaccine Initiative (a special project of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society). A statement endorsed by the groups appears below.

"The hepatitis B vaccine is extremely safe. Nearly 500 million doses of the vaccine have been given worldwide, and the incidence of serious adverse effects has been very low. There is no scientific proof that use of the hepatitis B vaccine causes chronic illness, including demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. On the contrary, use of the hepatitis B vaccine has proven to reduce incidence of the disease and of serious complications from the disease in countries where long term immunization programs exist."

"One out of 20 Americans will become infected with hepatitis B during their lifetime, and there are an estimated 100,000 new infections and 4,000 - 5,000 deaths from the disease in the United States each year. Children who become infected before the age of six have a much higher chance of developing chronic liver disease - including liver cancer - than those who get hepatitis B later in life. Most people who die from hepatitis B in their 30s and 40s were infected as children."

"Because of the risks of serious disease caused by hepatitis B infection, and the proven safety record of the vaccine, we continue to advocate for use of the hepatitis B vaccine for infants and adults."

Note to Editors: To interview a medical expert in your local area, call the American Academy of Pediatrics at 800-433-9016.

Contacts: The American Academy of Pediatrics, Jerry Bowman, 800-433-9016
The American Liver Foundation, Julie Lehane, Ph.D., 1-888-4HEP-ABC (1-888-443-7222)
The Hepatitis Foundation International, Albert Gallardo, 800-891-0707
MS Society of America PKIDS, Trish Parnell, 360-695-0293
The Vaccine Initiative, Carrie Schum, 202-973-5800

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