Vaccination succeeds in dramatically reducing hepatitis B in NSW Aboriginal women

Hepatitis B
Date published:

There has been a significant reduction in hepatitis B virus in Aboriginal women giving birth in NSW, with the decline linked to the introduction of the state’s newborn vaccination program.The Medical Journal of Australia(link is external) this week published the results of the largest study to examine hepatitis B notification rates for women born before and after the introduction of NSW vaccination programs.In the study led by UNSW Associate Professor Bette Liu, women were analysed by country of birth, Indigenous status and region.

It linked data from two statutory registers – the NSW Perinatal Data Collection (which records details about a mother’s country of birth, Indigenous status and postcode) and the NSW Notifiable Conditions Information Management System (which records notifications from laboratories and health practitioners detecting hepatitis infection).In Australia, all pregnant women are routinely screened for hepatitis B during pregnancy.

The study of more than 480,000 women found the rate of hepatitis B in Aboriginal women remains higher than in non-Indigenous Australian-born women.However, hepatitis B notifications were 80 per cent lower for Aboriginal women who were born after targeted infant vaccination began.

Associate Professor Liu says the findings suggest the targeted vaccination program introduced in NSW in 1987 for babies considered to be at higher risk of hepatitis infection – including those born to Aboriginal mums – was a success.

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