Vaccinating children against hepatitis A reduces disease rate in community

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Results of a community-based demonstration project show that hepatitis A vaccination of children significantly reduces the rate of infection among both children and adults. The findings are reported in the December 19th issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Francisco Averhoff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a pilot vaccination program from 1995 to 2000 in Butte County, California, where hepatitis A epidemics have been recurrent. Beginning in 1995, vaccinations for hepatitis A were offered to all children, 2 to 12 years of age, in the county.

Over the 6 years of the study,66.2% of the eligible children were vaccinated and 39.3% received a second dose. During the trial, the incidence of hepatitis A for the entire population of the county dropped from 57 cases in 1995 to 4 cases in 2000, the investigators report.

"The decline appears to be sustained; only two cases were reported to the CDC during the first half of 2001," they add.

Dr. Averhoff and colleagues conclude that "The Butte County experience suggests that, over time, routine vaccination of children can reduce overall disease rates in the community. This previews the potential impact of routine childhood hepatitis A vaccination, as recently recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for areas of the United States with consistently high hepatitis A infection rates."

JAMA 2001;286:2968-2973.

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