Diseases are abnormal conditions that affect living organisms and occur when cells in the body are damaged as a result of infection and signs of an illness appear (National Academy of Sciences, 2019). They fall under four main categories; infectious, deficiency, hereditary and physiological diseases, all of which have harmful effects on the human body. However, through vaccines many diseases have been successfully controlled. Since 1796, when Edward Jenner discovered the smallpox vaccination, mass vaccination programs have been used to combat many other diseases. Mass vaccinations programs involve immunizing a large group of people in one or more locations in a short period of time (Grabenstein, 20016). These programs provide long-term protection and in some cases immunity to several diseases. For highly contagious diseases including measles, vaccines are effective in preventing transmission through immunity. Two doses of the MMR vaccine at 12-15 months and 4-6 years of age are 97% effective at preventing measles (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019). Mass vaccination programs have also been effective in combatting Hepatitis B with an effective rate of over 98% (World Health Organisation, 2019). Therefore, this essay proposes the following research question.
Has Taiwan’s program of universal hepatitis B vaccination reduced the number of acute and chronic liver diseases in infants?
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver which can cause both acute and chronic (long lasting) liver disease (World Health Organisation, 2019). It is spread when infectious body fluids come into contact with body tissue underneath the skin. Mother-to-baby transmission during pregnancy and child-to-child contact generally through contact of open wounds are the most common ways to become infected in Australia (SA health, 2019). The world’s first nation-wide hepatitis B vaccination program was launched in Taiwan, July 1984. Following this, after 2 decades the program was found to provide long term protection for up to 20 years against hepatitis B.
A study conducted in 2010 reported that all infants in the study received three to four doses of the Hepatitis B vaccination (HBV). Infants of Hepatitis B positive mothers were also given 0.5ml of hepatitis B within 24hours after birth. This particular vaccination coverage rate was as high as 97% (Cross, 2006). The level of pathogen in Taipei City of hepatitis B surface antigen also declined from 9.8% to 0.6% in children after 20 years of mass vaccination (Cross, 2006). As well as the decrease of chronic HBV infection, the cases of hepatocellular carcinoma in Taiwanese children also decreased. This suggests, that Taiwan’s program of hepatitis B vaccination reduced the number of liver disease in infants.