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Keywords:

  • Global hepatitis A meeting;
  • hepatitis A;
  • hepatitis A vaccination;
  • infectious disease control;
  • public health;
  • surveillance

Summary.  For the first time a global meeting on hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection as vaccine preventable disease was organized at the end of 2007. More than 200 experts from 46 countries gathered to investigate the changing global HAV epidemiology reflecting the increasing numbers of persons at risk for severe clinical disease and mortality from HAV infection. The benefits of childhood and adult hepatitis A (HepA) vaccination strategies and the data needed by individual countries and international health organizations to assess current HepA prevention strategies were discussed. New approaches in preventing HAV infection including universal HepA vaccination were considered. This introductory paper summarizes the major findings of the meeting and describes the changing epidemiology of HAV infections and the impact of HepA vaccination strategies in various countries. Implementation of HepA vaccination strategies should take into account the level of endemicity, the level of the socio-economic development and sanitation, and the risk of outbreaks. A stepwise strategy for introduction of HepA universal immunisation of children was recommended. This strategy should be based on accurate surveillance of cases and qualitative documentation of outbreaks and their control, secure political support on the basis of high-quality results, and comprehensive cost-effectiveness studies. The recognition of the need for increased global attention towards HepA prevention is an important outcome of this meeting.