Decline of hepatitis B carrier rate in vaccinated and unvaccinated subjects: Sixteen years after newborn vaccination program in Taiwan



Taiwan was an endemic area for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, and related liver diseases cause a significant drain of public resources. To control the endemic, a nation-wide newborn vaccination program was started in 1985. We reviewed the results of the annual survey for HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) performed in freshmen class of two high schools in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, from 1991 to 2001. A total of 10,194 students, most of them 15 years old, were tested for serum HBsAg using enzyme immunoassays. There is a significant trend (P < 0.0001) of decreasing HBsAg carrier rate from 20.3 to 4.4% in males and 14.3% to 2.4% in females, respectively, over 11 years. The HBsAg carrier rate was 16.0–20.3% in students surveyed during 1991–1993 (born more than 6 years before the start of the national vaccination program), which decreased to 7.7–11.9% during 1994–1999 (born 1–6 years before the program). It further declined to 4.7% and 3.4% in 2000 and 2001 (born after the start of the program). The HBsAg carrier rate in male students was significantly higher than that in female students in most of the years. The HBV newborn vaccination program not only successfully prevented most of the perinatal transmission of HBV but also reduced horizontal transmission of HBV to children born up to 6 years before the start of the program. Also, the protection persisted for at least 15 years. J. Med. Virol. 69:471–474, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.