At least 120 million people in China have become carriers of the
hepatitis B virus out of the 700 million people who once were
infected with it, a senior health official said on Friday.
Hao Yang, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's disease
control and prevention bureau, revealed the figure at a ceremony
unveiling a free hepatitis B vaccination project for 320,000
primary school students in northwest China's Qinghai Province.
But he did not elaborate on details like major transmission
channels and geographical distribution.
"Prevention should come first to contain this disease, which is
highly preventable with efficient and the safe hepatitis B vaccine
available since 1982," he told China Daily.
Since 2002, China has added the vaccine to its routine
immunization programs, under which the government foots the bill
for vaccines for all newborn babies.
In China, 40 percent of all infections are mother-to-child,
according to Samuel So, director of the Asian Liver Center at
Stanford University. Unfortunately, very few people are aware that
a vaccine at birth is likely to stop the baby contracting the
The vaccine, given as a series of three injections and costing
roughly 60 yuan (US$8) for each one, is the most cost-efficient and
effective way to curb the epidemic, which causes hundreds of
thousands of deaths and major economic losses to China every year,
noted Wang Zhao, vice-president of China Foundation for Hepatitis
Prevention and Control, which helped raise the $1 million funding
for the project.
"Starting with children, the vaccine project is a step forward
to help the nation finally shake off its notoriety as the 'major
hepatitis B host.'" Wang added.
Hao stressed that discrimination against hepatitis B carriers in
fields such as employment and education should be eradicated,
citing the halt to compulsory hepatitis B tests for job
(China Daily September 1, 2007)