The status of hepatitis B control in the African region
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The status of hepatitis B control in the African region

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  • Alternative Title:
    Pan Afr Med J
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    The World Health Organization (WHO) African Region has approximately 100 million people with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. This review describes the status of hepatitis B control in the Region. We present hepatitis B vaccine (HepB) coverage data and from available data in the published literature, the impact of HepB vaccination on hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) prevalence, a marker of chronic infection, among children, HBsAg prevalence in pregnant women, and risk of perinatal transmission. Lastly, we describe challenges with HepB birth dose (HepB-BD) introduction reported in the Region, and propose strategies to increase coverage. In 2015, regional three dose HepB coverage was 76%, and 16(34%) of 47 countries reported ≥ 90% coverage. Overall, 11 countries introduced HepB-BD; only nine provide universal HepB-BD, and of these, five reported ≥ 80% coverage. From non-nationally representative serosurveys among children, HBsAg prevalence was lower among children born after HepB introduction compared to those born before HepB introduction. However, some studies still found HBsAg prevalence to be above 2%. From limited surveys among pregnant women, the median HBsAg prevalence varied by country, ranging from 1.9% (Madagascar) to 16.1% (Niger); hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) prevalence among HBsAg-positive women ranged from 3.3% (Zimbabwe) to 28.5% (Nigeria). Studies in three countries indicated that the risk of perinatal HBV transmission was associated with HBeAg expression or high HBV DNA viral load. Major challenges for timely HepB-BD administration were poor knowledge of or lack of national HepB-BD vaccination guidelines, high prevalence of home births, and unreliable vaccine supply. Overall, substantial progress has been made in the region. However, countries need to improve HepB3 coverage and some countries might need to consider introducing the HepB-BD to help achieve the regional hepatitis B control goal of < 2% HBsAg prevalence among children < 5 years old by 2020. To facilitate HepB-BD introduction and improve timely coverage, strategies are needed to reach both facility-based and home births. Strong political commitment, clear policy recommendations and staff training on HepB-BD administration are also required. Furthermore, high quality nationally representative serosurveys among children are needed to inform decision makers about progress towards the regional control goal.
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