Temporary hepatitis B vaccination recommendations issued in light of vaccine shortages

Global shortages of hepatitis B vaccines, including combination hepatitis A and B vaccines, have prompted Public Health England (PHE) to issue temporary recommendations for vaccine prioritisation and use.

The hepatitis B vaccine shortage could last until early 2018. | SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The hepatitis B vaccine shortage could last until early 2018. | SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

To ensure that hepatitis B vaccine is available for individuals at the highest and most immediate risk of exposure to the virus, PHE has published temporary recommendations for healthcare professionals to implement until normal supply resumes.

PHE has been working with NHS England, the Department of Health and the vaccine manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck Sharpe & Dohme, to establish ordering restrictions and provide advice on prioritisation of vaccine for specific groups.

Infants born to hepatitis-B-infected mothers are the highest priority for post-exposure vaccination. The risk for travellers is considered to be low, although certain behaviours or activities may put some individuals at higher risk. Ordering of any adult hepatitis B vaccine within general practice will not be permitted until further notice.

For all pre- and post-exposure indications, an individual risk assessment must be carried out. Healthcare professionals are advised that certain factors such as the level and source of exposure may alter the prioritisation assessment, and the overall decision as to whether someone should be a priority for vaccination requires some clinical judgement.

The supply constraints do not affect the new hexavalent vaccine Infanrix hexa (DTaP/IPV/Hib/HBV) which will be replacing the pentavalent vaccines Infanrix-IPV+Hib and Pediacel (DTaP/IPV/Hib) in the routine childhood immunisation schedule this autumn.

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