A nationwide hepatitis B vaccination program was launched in Taiwan in 1984. To study the impact of this ongoing program on hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, a follow-up seroepidemiologic study was carried out in 1989 in a Taipei district where pre-vaccination seroepidemiology had been studied. HBV markers were studied in 1134 apparently healthy children (619 boys and 515 girls) under 13 years of age between March and July 1989.
The prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in children under 5 years of age decreased from 9.3% in 1984 to approximately 2% in 1989. A significant decrrease in HBsAg prevalence and hepatitis B core antibody in 5- to 8-year-old children who were not immunized against HBV showed that horizontal infection among the older children had also decreased. Thus, this program not only protected vaccinated subjects; the reduction in numbers of highly infectious young HBV carriers also contributed to a lower prevalence of hepatitis B infection and carrier rates in some older children. This study demonstrates that hepatitis B vaccination is effective in protecting the majority of children in hyperendemic areas from HBV infection and from becoming chronic carriers.