Why CDC is Working to Prevent Hepatitis B Globally

Updated July 27, 2022

Health Costs: Chronic Hepatitis B Can Lead to Serious Health Problems

In 2019, hepatitis B claimed over 820,000 lives, mostly from liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. Hepatitis B causes over 400,000 cases of liver cirrhosis and over 200,000 liver cancer cases every year.

Because immunization policies and childhood vaccine delivery systems vary within countries, hepatitis B infection is almost four times higher in U.S. citizens and residents born outside the U.S. compared to persons born in the U.S. Preventing hepatitis B through vaccination programs can help reduce the burden of hepatitis B globally and in the U.S.

Globally, Chronic Hepatitis B Affects Approximately 296 Million People and Contributes to an Estimated 820,000 Deaths Every Year

Global chronic hepatitis B infections for 2019 totaled 296 million. Infections by region were: Region of the Americas: 6 million, European Region: 14 million, Western Pacific Region: 116 infection, African Region: 82 million, Eastern Mediterranean Region: 18 million, and South-East Asia Region: 60 million.

Hepatitis B is Preventable With a Safe and Effective Vaccine

Vaccination within 24 hours of birth (known as a birth dose), followed by 2 to 3 additional doses can prevent hepatitis B infections. This vaccine dose schedule is recommended by the World Health Organization for all countries.

The hepatitis B vaccine is estimated to prevent 38 million deaths over the lifetime of persons born between 2000 and 2030 in 98 low- and middle-income countries.

Hepatitis B vaccines significantly reduce chronic hepatitis B infections. In the South-East Asia region, hepatitis B vaccination prevented approximately 16 million chronic infections and 2.6 million related deaths during 1992-2015. Similarly, in the Western Pacific Region, vaccination prevented over 37 million chronic infections and 7 million deaths among children born between 1990 and 2014.

Two graphs showing the impact of hepatitis B vaccination on disease burden in the South East Asia Region and the Western Pacific Region. Both regions show a dramatic reduction in chronic hepatitis B infections as the birth dose and third dose of hepatitis B coverage increased.

Hepatitis B vaccination is a good investment in public health. Between 2001 and 2020, hepatitis B vaccines saved an estimated $49 billion in cost of illness and $81 billion in total economic and societal values in 73 low- and-middle income countries.

Ongoing Challenge: Many Children Are Missing Out on the Benefit of Hepatitis B Vaccination

While most countries have introduced hepatitis B vaccines for children, many still have high rates of infection in children. Only 111 of 194 countries have introduced a birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine for all newborns, which prevents mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, the primary source of chronic infections. If not vaccinated, 9 out of 10 infants infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) at birth will progress to chronic infection leading to serious health problems. In 2021, over half of the world’s infants were not given a dose of hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth.

The global estimate for the number of hepatitis B virus infections among children under 5 in 2019 was 6,367,336 (range 4,408,156-10,775,491). Estimates by region were: Region of the Americas: 51,446 (range 25,723-128,616); European Region: 147,137(73,568-294,273); Western Pacific Region: 363,745 (range 242,497-560,147); African Region: 4,310,454 (range 2,873,363-6,753,044); Eastern Mediterranean Region 722,130 (range 424,536-947,796); South-East Asia Region: 644,862 (range 460,615-1,736,041).

Actions: CDC Works Worldwide to Eliminate Hepatitis B

CDC works with partners and countries to eliminate hepatitis B by increasing vaccination coverage.

Page last reviewed: March 22, 2022
Content source: Global Immunization