Indonesia launches nationwide program to protect newborns against hepatitis B

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (1 October 2002) - The Indonesian government this month begins an effort to ensure that every newborn is vaccinated against hepatitis B during the first seven days of life-even those 80 percent of babies born at home rather than in hospitals. Central to the program is the Uniject* device, a pre-filled, single use injection device that can be used instead of a traditional syringe and needle. Indonesian midwives are being trained to give the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as the baby is born. Previously, most children waited two months for their first vaccination-a time when they are at high risk for infection.

Hepatitis B is a highly infectious virus that is transmitted almost 100 times more effectively than HIV/AIDS. It attacks the liver and is a major cause of liver cancer. It kills more than 500,000 people a year globally.

Indonesia-the world's fourth most populous country-is the world's first to use Uniject devices filled with hepatitis B vaccine on a nationwide scale. In parts of Indonesia, as much as 70 percent of the population have been infected with hepatitis B virus. The new program is the result of intense collaboration between the Indonesian government and the Children's Vaccine Program (CVP), part of a Seattle-based non-governmental organization, the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH).

"By providing hepatitis B in Uniject, Indonesia is making injections safer while also increasing access to the vaccine," said Mark Kane, director of PATH's Children's Vaccine Program. "We are excited to be part of an effort that stands ready to reach nearly five million newborns every year-including some four million born outside of hospitals."

In order to vaccinate all these children against hepatitis B within the first week of life, the Indonesian government, with help from CVP, is beginning a birth-dose training program this month for 60,000 community-based

Contact: Ellen Wilson
Burness Communications

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