Par­ents un­will­ing to give their chil­dren hep­ati­tis B vac­cine

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

More young par­ents have be­come re­luc­tant to have their chil­dren vac­ci­nated against hep­ati­tis B as in­fant deaths af­ter the in­oc­u­la­tion have in­creased.

But med­i­cal ex­perts are con­tin­u­ing to urge par­ents to stick with the pro­gram, say­ing that blam­ing the vac­cine for all in­fant deaths isn’t re­spon­si­ble and warn­ing of an out­break of the disease among chil­dren if they don’t get the shots.

Mean­while, doc­tors ruled out the vac­cine as the cause of the death of a 1-month-old in­fant in Hubei prov­ince, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties said on Wed­nes­day.

Guo Caiy­ing, a nurse at the Shuyuan­jie com­mu­nity health­care center in Chengdu, said that the num­ber of chil­dren get­ting the vac­cine has de­creased.

“Wary par­ents have be­gun to pay at­ten­tion to the vac­cine pro­ducer and even the batch num­ber of the vac­cines their chil­dren would re­ceive,” she said.

More­over, par­ents who are opt­ing for paid, im­ported vac­cines are on the rise, she said.

Par­ents’ grow­ing re­luc­tance to vac­ci­nate their chil­dren has health of­fi­cials wor­ried.

Jia Ji­dong, who leads the Liver Re­search Center at Bei­jing Friend­ship Hos­pi­tal, warned of the pos­si­bil­ity of a hep­ati­tis B out­break among chil­dren if many par­ents stopped im­mu­niz­ing their chil­dren.

Cur­rently, less than 1 per­cent of Chi­nese chil­dren are in­fected with hep­ati­tis B, thanks largely to the im­mu­niza­tion pro­gram, he said.

“But the virus is still there, as China has a rel­a­tively large num­ber of virus car­ri­ers. We should con­tinue the vac­ci­na­tions to sus­tain the good re­sults so far,” he said.

Zhang Shuyi, an as­sis­tant re­searcher at the Cap­i­tal In­sti­tute of Pe­di­atrics, a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal in Bei­jing, agreed, say­ing it has been proved sci­en­tif­i­cally that new­borns are weak and more prone to death from many causes.

A na­tional sur­vey in 2010 by the health au­thor­ity showed that about 8.3 out of ev­ery 1,000 Chi­nese new­borns died within 28 days of birth.

Top causes de­tected in­clude pre-term low body weight and birth as­phyxia, con­gen­i­tal heart disease, and pneu­mo­nia, it found.

World­wide, nearly 41 per­cent of all deaths of chil­dren younger than 5 are new­born in­fants, ba­bies in their first 28 days of life or ba­bies in the neonatal pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

With­out the re­sults of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it’s “not sci­en­tific to blame the vac­ci­na­tion for all new­born deaths”, she said.

Since Novem­ber, about 10 in­fants have died af­ter get­ting the hep­ati­tis B vac­ci­na­tion, part of the free na­tional im­mu­niza­tion pro­gram. The most re­cent two cases were re­ported from Yongjia county in Wen­zhou, Zhejiang prov­ince, and Pix­ian county in Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince, Bei­jing Times re­ported.

Lo­cal health and drug au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the deaths.

Li Guo­qing, di­rec­tor of the depart­ment of drug and cos­met­ics in­spec­tion and man­age­ment un­der the China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, asked the pub­lic not to refuse the vac­ci­na­tions, adding that the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion are ex­pected in 20 days.

“We have been check­ing on ev­ery key link con­cern­ing vac­cine safety, in­clud­ing pro­duc­tion, trans­port and vac­ci­na­tion pro­ce­dures,” he said.

Jia, from Bei­jing Friend­ship Hos­pi­tal, said the hep­ati­tis B vac­ci­na­tion is the most ef­fec­tive way to pro­tect chil­dren from vi­ral in­fec­tion of the liver. Li Wenfang con­trib­uted to this story.

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