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Hepatitis B Vaccine Use Supported

Vaccine Safe and Prevents Potentially Deadly Infection

May 18, 2000

Contact:
Carrie Schum - 202 973 5800
Lisa Grossman - 212 598 3594


Washington, D.C., May 18: A coalition of groups dedicated to the protection of the health of children and families today voiced their support for use of the hepatitis B vaccine. Their statement was made in response to a Congressional hearing held today by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, a subcommittee of the Committee on Government Reform.

The groups include the Vaccine Initiative (a project of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society), PKIDs (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases), the American Liver Foundation, the Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI), the Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute, and the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC). A statement endorsed by the groups appears below.

"Because of the risks of serious, even fatal, liver disease caused by hepatitis B infection, and the proven safety record of the vaccine, we continue to support the use of the hepatitis B vaccine for infants, children and adults. One out of 20 Americans will become infected with hepatitis B during their lifetime. Before the vaccine was widely used, over 300,000 infections occurred each year and about 5,000 people died from hepatitis B complications. Children who become infected before the age of six have a much higher chance of developing chronic liver diseases- 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."

"The hepatitis B vaccine is extremely safe and is our best protection against this disease. More than 500 million doses of the vaccine have been given worldwide. The World Health Organization recently reviewed all available research on the issue and concluded that, other than extremely rare allergic manifestations, the vaccine does not cause serious adverse effects or chronic illness. On the contrary, use of the hepatitis B vaccine has proven to reduce the incidence of and serious complications from the disease in countries where immunization programs exist."

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