Parents unwilling to give their children hepatitis B vaccine
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-monthold 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.