Tripura launches 'at birth vaccination' for Hepatitis B

Tripura launches 'at birth vaccination' for Hepatitis BAgartala, Jan 7 - Hoping to stem the incidence of Hepatitis B, the Tripura government Friday introduced 'at birth vaccination', based on the China model that attained 99.98 percent success in curbing the disease.

"The ambitious 'at birth Hepatitis B vaccination' programme would be carried out in all health centres in Tripura to make the northeastern state a hepatitis free state," Tripura Health Minister Tapan Chakraborty said after formally introducing the programme.

The health programme would be jointly run by the Tripura government and the Hepatitis Foundation of Tripura (HFT), an NGO spearheading the movement for a hepatitis-free world for the past 10 years.

The programme hopes to vaccinate 650,000 people in Tripura by March this year.

"This is, in fact, a China model where they have attained maximum success of 99.98 percent after running the 'at birth Hepatitis B vaccination'," said HFT president Pradip Bhaumik.

"After hepatitis turned into an epidemic in Taiwan, authorities in 1984 had launched the 'at birth Hepatitis B vaccination' and got over 99 percent success," he added.

The programme, he said, was being carried out with success in 171 countries, excluding India, as part of the expanded immunisation scheme.

According to the physician, five to seven percent Indians and eight to 10 percent of tribals in India are affected by the Hepatitis B virus.

Calling it a "dreaded" disease, Bhaumik pointed out that the disease could be more harmful than the AIDS and diabetic diseases but the central government has yet to undertake any mass countrywide vaccination programme.

"It (hepatitis) is one of the dreaded diseases that can cause liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and serious other liver ailments and other organ damage," Bhaumik said.

According to experts, of the six Hepatitis strains (Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E and G), Hepatitis B and C are the most dangerous as the two diseases are transmitted through blood.

Bhaumik, who has received acclaim nationally for his work, said: "The most common route of transmission in India is parental transmission, which is about 40 percent."

He said India was a rare example of a country that had no policy for Hepatitis B vaccination. (IANS)