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Keywords:

  • HBV;
  • hepatitis B immunization;
  • health-care workers;
  • Korean hepatitis B vaccine;
  • U.S. hepatitis B vaccine

Abstract

Advisory committees recommend hepatitis B (HBV) immunization for professional and student health-care workers. However, the currently licensed vaccines are expensive, and previous surveys have shown that few students (14%) have been immunized in Canada. A low-cost immunization program was offered to health-care students in order to determine whether the effectiveness of HBV immunization could be improved by substantially reducing the vaccine cost to recipients. The immunogenicity, side effects, and 3-dose completion rate of a low-cost Korean HBV vaccine were compared with a similar U.S.-made vaccine. A total of 922 postsecondary students enrolled in 6 health-care disciplines in Ottawa, Canada were surveyed for hepatitis-6 immunization status. Nonimmunized students were subsequently offered HBV vaccine at total cost of $15 (Canadian), randomly allocated t o receive 3 intramuscular doses of either Korean or U.S.-made plasma-derived HBV vaccine in a double-blind fashion, surveyed about side effects, and tested for hepatitis B surface antibody seroconversion. Only 12% of the 922 surveyed students had been previously immunized when vaccine was obtainable only at high cost. However, 66% of those not immunized participated in the vaccine trial and paid the $15 fee. Hepatitis-B surface antibody seroconversion (≥10 sample ratio units by radioimmunoassay) occurred in 291/311 (93.6%) and 299/310 (96.5%) of recipients of 3 doses of the Korean and U.S. vaccines, respectively (P = 0.10). There were no meaningful differences in vaccine adverse effects, and 92.6% of recipients of either vaccine completed 3 doses. These results support the view that HBV immunization would be more effective (vaccine acceptance rates higher, greater proportions of persons protected) if lower cost vaccines were marketed. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.