Background: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is hyperendemic in Taiwan. Before universal HBV immunization was started in Taiwan in 1984, the carrier rate for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was 15% to 20% in the general population.
Objective: To quantify the population impact of a mass vaccination program for HBV 15 years after its implementation.
Design: Descriptive analysis of serologic markers of HBV in healthy children and adolescents.
Setting: Chung-Cheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan, in 1999.
Participants: 1357 persons younger than 15 years of age, who were born after the implementation of universal HBV vaccination, and 559 persons 15 to 20 years of age, who were born before the program began.
Measurements: Repeated serologic surveys similar to those done before and 5 and 10 years after the national vaccination program was implemented. All participants were tested for serum HBsAg, its antibody (anti-HBs), and hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc).
Results: During the 15 years since the vaccination program was implemented, the prevalence of HBsAg among persons younger than 15 years of age decreased from 9.8% in 1984 to 0.7% in 1999; among persons 15 to 20 years of age, the 1999 prevalence of HBsAg was 7% (P < 0.001). Hepatitis B core antibody seropositivity, which represents HBV infection, was found in 2.9% of persons younger than 15 years of age and in 20.6% of persons 15 to 20 years of age (P < 0.001); in the same age groups, the rate of anti-HBs seropositivity was 75.8% and 70.7%, respectively (P = 0.02).
Conclusions: Universal vaccination significantly decreased the HBV carrier rate and infection rate among children and adolescents born since the program began. By decreasing the carrier pool, continuation of the national HBV immunization program should prevent HBV infection in the children of Taiwan, and, subsequently, adults as well.