Only 1 in 2 newborns have access to cancer preventing vaccines

On World Cancer Day (4 February 2018) we are calling on the hepatitis community to join us in demanding that the hepatitis B vaccine is given to all newborns. 

Liver Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths globally, accounting for 830,000* deaths a year. Of these deaths, 350,000 are caused by the hepatitis B virus, a chronic virus that effects the liver. These deaths are largely avoidable as it may surprise you to know a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B exists, which can ultimately protect against liver disease and liver cancer. So if we can prevent all these deaths, why aren’t we?

Worldwide, only 52% of countries provide the hepatitis B vaccine to newborns, when it is most effective in preventing hepatitis B. This means half of the world’s children are still missing out on this potentially live saving treatment. Due to lack of political will to properly tackle this disease in the past, hepatitis B has ravaged communities and in turn has contributed highly to the global death toll for liver cancer.

There has however been significant steps made by the global community in the last few years to scale up vaccinations among infants (under age of five) with 84% of children now having been vaccinated. This has resulted in the instances of hepatitis B falling, which goes to show how much impact a simple vaccination can have.

NOhep Ambassador Raquel Peck said; “Coverage of infants is a good start, but to ensure real impact, we need to guarantee newborns are vaccinated in order to prevent both infection that may occur early in life and to protect against potential mother-to-child transmission if the mother is living with hepatitis B.”

Time for Action

In May 2016, 194 governments committed to eliminating this global disease when they signed up to the Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy set out by the World Health Organization. The strategy includes a target to increase coverage of the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine to 90% by 2030.

On World Cancer Day, we are calling on all NOhep activists, visionaries and supporters to help us raise awareness of this vital issue and hold their government to account, ensuring that the hepatitis B vaccine is part of national immunization and cancer control programmes.

This is our chance to make our voices heard. Join us to eliminate viral hepatitis and prevent needless deaths from liver cancer. #NOhep #WorldCancerDay

*Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). GBD Compare Data Visualization. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington, 2016. Available from http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare. Accessed 30 January 2018.