Hepatitis B Vaccine Birthdose Practices in a Country Where Hepatitis B is Endemic — Laos, December 2011–February 2012
Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection causes approximately 325,000 deaths from cirrhosis and liver cancer each year in the Western Pacific Region of the World Health Organization (WHO). With an estimated infection prevalence of >8%, HBV is considered highly endemic in Laos and is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and early childhood. A hepatitis B vaccine birth dose (HepB-BD) is needed to prevent mother-to-child HBV transmission. To assess gaps in coverage and identify possible remedies for improvement of coverage, during the 3-month period December 2011-February 2012, the Laos Ministry of Health and WHO staff members surveyed 37 health facilities in five provinces in Laos, inquiring about HepB-BD knowledge and practices among health-care providers and estimating HepB-BD coverage provided by the facilities. For facility-based births, the median HepB-BD coverage was 74% (interquartile range: 39%-97%). Hepatitis B vaccine was not in stock at 18 (49%) of the 37 facilities on the day they were visited. Of the 37 facilities, 17 (46%) assisted with home births, and 23 (62%) conducted postnatal home visits. Of the 17 facilities that assisted with home births, seven (41%) included HepB-BD vaccination as part of the service; of the 23 that conducted postnatal home visits, 15 (65%) provided HepB-BD as part of the visit. However, among those reporting that they provided these outreach services, only 48 births were recorded as attended, and only 81 postnatal visits were recorded as conducted during the 3-month period. Health facilities can help prevent mother-to-child HBV transmission in Laos by ensuring vaccine availability, vaccinating all infants born in the facility, and enhancing outreach services for home births.
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