Hepatitis B vaccine protection may wane in teens

By Will Boggs, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Protection against hepatitis B appears to drop off in adolescents who got the hepatitis B vaccine beginning at birth, according to a new report.

Dr. Stephanie R. Bialek from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues evaluated the occurrence of breakthrough infections and the persistence of protective levels of antibodies against hepatitis B in 105 teens who had been given the recommended series of hepatitis B vaccine starting at birth 15 years earlier.

Only eight of them showed evidence of new hepatitis B infection, the authors report, and no participant was chronically infected.

On the other hand, only seven of the other 97 participants had relatively high antibody levels against hepatitis B at the 15-year follow-up, the researchers report in The Pediatric Infectious Disease.

Less than half of the participants who elected to get a booster dose of hepatitis B vaccine had an expected antibody response at 14 days, which “might indicate waning immunity,” Bialek’s team found.

“At this point in time, we do not have any evidence from our surveillance systems of breakthrough hepatitis B virus infections occurring among vaccinated adolescents and therefore do not recommend additional doses of hepatitis B vaccine for adolescents or children who already received three doses of hepatitis B vaccine,” Bialek told Reuters Health.

However, he added, “We need to continue surveillance for hepatitis B among vaccinated adolescents … for making decisions about whether the additional doses of hepatitis B vaccine should be recommended in the future.”

SOURCE: The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, October 2008.

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