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Clear Evidence of Progress in Hepatitis B Campaign
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China's health officials have reached a notable milestone as one-third of the country's children have now been immunized against hepatitis B as part of a five-year protection program.

Vice-Minister of Health Jiang Zuojun said yesterday that more than 11 million children in 1,301 counties of central and western China had now been immunized against hepatitis B.

And that means health officials will have their work cut out to reach the remaining two-thirds by the project's scheduled deadline of next year.

The US$76 million project, co-funded equally by the Chinese government and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), started in 2002 which is the same year the government added hepatitis B to the routine childhood vaccinations.

The campaign targets children under five across an area that encompasses 470 million people and includes 6 million newborns annually.

The campaign has been far reaching and included those born at home in mountain villages, in the tents of nomadic herders and those coming into the world in the more conventional surroundings of hospitals.

"This breakthrough was 20 years in the making," Julian Lob-Levyt, executive secretary of the GAVI Alliance, said when meeting with Jiang in Beijing.

"This is how long children in the industrialized world have had a vaccine to fight this virus but until recently progress in emerging countries and poor remote areas, such as western China, has been painfully slow," he added.

China's success is a model for other countries still struggling to stop the spread of the hepatitis B virus and other vaccine-preventable diseases, he said.

(China Daily July 26, 2006)

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