Objective: To study the seroepidemiology of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in children 10 years after a mass hepatitis B vaccination program was begun in Taiwan.
Design: Cross-sectional seroprevalence survey.
Setting: Cheng-Chung/Chung-Cheng District, Taipei, Taiwan, 1994.
Subjects and methods: Serum samples from 1515 healthy children younger than 12 years were tested for HBV markers. The results were compared with a baseline seroepidemiologic study conducted just before the vaccination program was launched in 1984 and with a subsequent study in 1989 in the same area.
Main results: Eighty-seven percent of the children had received at least 3 doses of HBV vaccine. The overall prevalence rate of hepatitis B surface antigenemia decreased from 9.8% in 1984 to 1.3% in 1994. A statistically significant decrease was observed in every age group from 1 to 10 years. The overall prevalence rate of hepatitis B core antibody was 26% in 1984, 15% in 1989, and 4.0% in 1994. This suggests that the risk of horizontal HBV infection has decreased over time, not only because of the protective effect of the vaccine but also because the infection source has diminished. A high prevalence rate of hepatitis B surface antibody (79%) was noted in 1994 as anticipated.
Conclusions: The Taiwanese mass vaccination program has protected most children younger than 10 years from becoming carriers, reducing both perinatal and horizontal HBV transmission. Mass HBV vaccination has proved to be a successful method to control HBV infection in this hyperendemic area.