From 1 August 2017, all babies born in the UK will be offered the hepatitis B jab as part of their routine immunisations, in an effort to prevent viral infections that cause cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Babies across the UK are already offered the 5-in-1 jab to protect them against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and bacterial infections known as Hib, or haemophilus influenzae type b.
The hepatitis B vaccine will also be added to the 5-in-1 jab.
Every baby born after the start of August will receive several doses of the ‘Hexa’ jab, at eight, 12 and 16 weeks.
Several other countries already offer the Hep B jab after the World Health Organisation recommended in 1992 that all be immunised against the virus.
However, the UK is one of the last European countries to follow the advice.
‘This has had a major impact on preventing infection in many countries,’ Sema Mandal, a consultant in immunisation, hepatitis and blood safety at Public Health England (PHE) said of the vaccination.
‘While hepatitis B is relatively uncommon in the UK, it is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer globally.
‘From this autumn, children in the UK will also be able to benefit from this safe and effective vaccine.’
What is Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by a virus that’s spread through blood and body fluids, the NHS says.
It often doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms in adults and typically passes in a few months without treatment, but in children it often persists for years and may eventually cause serious liver damage.
Hepatitis B is less common in the UK than other parts of the world, but certain groups are at an increased risk.
This includes people originally from high-risk countries, people who inject drugs, and people who have unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners.
Worldwide, 250 million people are infected with hepatitis B, while it also kills 900,000 people a year.