Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Hepatitis B vaccination of newborn infants in rural China: evaluation of a village-based, out-of-cold-chain delivery strategy

Lixia Wang, Junhua Li, Haiping Chen, Fangjun Li, Gregory L Armstrong, Carib Nelson, Wenyuan Ze, Craig N Shapiro

Objective

To prevent perinatal transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV), WHO recommends that the first dose of hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine be given within 24 hours after birth. This presents a challenge in remote areas with limited cold-chain infrastructure and where many children are born at home.

Methods

Rural townships in three counties in China’s Hunan Province were randomized into three groups with different strategies for delivery of the first dose of HepB vaccine. In group 1, vaccine was stored within the cold chain and administered in township hospitals. In group 2, vaccine was stored out of the cold chain in villages and administered by village-based health workers to infants at home. Group 3 used the same strategy as group 2, but vaccine was packaged in a prefilled injection device. Training of immunization providers and public communication conveying the importance of the birth dose was performed for all groups.

Findings

Among children born at home, timely administration (within 24 hours after birth) of the first dose of HepB vaccine increased in all groups after the study: group 1, from 2.4% to 25.2%; group 2, from 2.6% to 51.8%; and group 3, from 0.6% to 66.7%; P < 0.001 in each case. No significant difference in antibody response to vaccine was observed between the groups.

Conclusion

Timely administration of the first dose of HepB vaccine was improved by communication and training activities, and by out-of-cold-chain storage of vaccine and administration at the village level, especially among children born at home.

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