Global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine

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Issues in the manufacturing process have led to a global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine.

Working in tandem with manufacturers, the Department of Health and NHS England, Public Health England has put a slew of measures in place allowing the NHS and other providers to use the available vaccine for those at the highest risk.

These measures are expected to continue until the beginning of 2018 and will remain under review.

The risk of catching hepatitis B infection in the UK is very low. In the UK, vaccination is usually offered to individuals who are at specific risk of being exposed to blood from an infected person.

This includes babies born to mothers who are infected with hepatitis B, the sexual partners of infected individuals and a range of other groups such as men who have sex with men, healthcare workers, and people who inject drugs.

Vaccination is also recommended for people who will be undertaking certain activities overseas.

A course of hepatitis B vaccine usually involves 3 doses of vaccine, completed over a few months. While supplies are limited, vaccine will be prioritised for those at highest immediate risk based on their doctor’s assessment.

For other people, a doctor may advise that hepatitis B vaccine can be deferred until later.

Hepatitis B virus is found in the blood and bodily fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluids, of an infected person.

Public Health England said that vaccination will still be available for now for those who already been exposed to the virus.