Hepatitis B Vaccination Rate among Newborns Drops in Vietnam

The number of children receiving hepatitis B vaccine within a day of being born has fallen sharply, said professor Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. In the first six months of this year, a fifth of the newborns in Vietnam received the vaccine shots, whereas the rate was 75% in 2012 and 56% last year, he said, warning that it would be difficult to control any outbreak of hepatitis B. Mr. Hien attributed the situation to the fact that three children in Huong Hoa district of the central province of Quang Tri died after receiving the vaccine last year though health authorities have affirmed that these deaths were caused by mistaken injection. The tragedy happened when a nurse at the general hospital of Huong Hoa district was asked by a doctor to administer the vaccine to the babies last July. When she went to collect the vaccine from the refrigerator, there was a power cut and she mistakenly picked up the wrong medicine, an anaesthetic called Esmeron. The refrigerator was meant to be used solely to store the hepatitis B vaccine, but a doctor, Le Truong Son, used the refrigerator to store the anaesthetic without telling anyone. Hien said that giving newborns hepatitis B vaccine was a global campaign. In Vietnam, the work has been carried out for 30 years. When given in sufficient time, the vaccine can reduce transmission of the disease from mother to child by 85%-90%. Hepatitis B was a safe vaccine and was not contra-indicated for children born prematurely. The rate of accidents after injection is one or two cases per million doses. (VnExpress Jul 16)