Hepatitis B: All adults under 60 should get the hepatitis B vaccine, CDC says

All adults under 60 should get vaccinated against hepatitis B, according to news reports on new recommendations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, unanimously voted on Nov. 3 to approve the new recommendations, multiple media outlets reported. The recommendation comes as progress toward eliminating the disease in the country has been underwhelming.

“We’re losing ground,” Dr. Mark Weng with the CDC said, according to The Associated Press. “We cannot eliminate hepatitis B in the U.S. without a new approach.”

The recommendation doesn’t become public policy until signed off on by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, The AP reported, and it’s unclear when she could do so. Here’s what to know about the recommendations.

Who should get vaccinated

The ACIP voted to recommend that all adults under age 60 and adults ages 60 and older with with certain risk factors receive the hepatitis B vaccines, according to MedPage Today.

Currently, the CDC recommends that infants and unvaccinated people under age 19 should get vaccinated.

It also recommends vaccination for people who fall into certain risk categories, including those at risk of infection through sexual exposure, those at risk of infection through “percutaneous or mucosal exposure to blood,” some international travelers, people with hepatitis C, HIV or chronic liver disease, and people who are incarcerated.

The recommendations for infants and people under age 19 would be unchanged.

Work group members originally suggested changing the other recommendations to say that all adults previously unvaccinated against hepatitis B should now get vaccinated. But MedPage Today reported that the ACIP voted instead to separate the age groups and maintain the risk-based recommendation for people 60 and older.

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The panel said people 60 and older who don’t have any known risks may still receive the vaccine, Healio reported.

The new recommendation would mostly apply to people ages 30-59 as hepatitis B vaccination in children became standard in 1991, according to The AP. Still, the change would apply to tens of millions of adults.

The goal of the recommendations is to decrease the number of new infections and prevent transmission and to decrease health disparities, according to CDC staff.

Officials said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has called for the elimination of the disease by 2030. But over the past 10 years, the number of hepatitis cases has plateaued overall and increased among middle-aged and older adults.

Officials estimated there are 20,700 acute hepatitis B virus infections each year.

They said the “risk-based HepB vaccination strategy among adults has fallen short” and that a universal recommendation would decrease stigmas among patients and simplify recommendations from providers.

Hepatitis B vaccination includes a 2 or 3 dose regiment, depending on the vaccine.

About hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, or HBV, according to the CDC.

“Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected,” the CDC said. “This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth.”

Symptoms include “fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea and jaundice,” the CDC said. But not all people who are newly infected with hepatitis B show symptoms.

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“For many people, hepatitis B is a short-term illness,” the agency said. “For others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection that can lead to serious, even life-threatening health issues like cirrhosis or liver cancer.”

The CDC estimates 1.89 million people in the United States are living with chronic HBV.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection, according to the CDC.

By Bailey Aldridge, Miami Herald

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