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Hepatitis B Vaccines Shortage in the UK

24 Jul 2017

There is currently constraints on the supply of hepatitis B containing vaccines in the UK. As a result healthcare practitioners across the UK have been issued with temporary recommendations on use of hepatitis B containing vaccines, including dose sparing advice. This is to preserve hepatitis B vaccine stock for those at highest immediate need. The vaccine shortage is likely to continue for some time.

Hepatitis B is an acute infection of the liver and is a public health problem worldwide. Areas where there is a higher risk of exposure to hepatitis B include Africa, India, China, South and Central America and Southeast Asia.

Advice for Travellers

Travellers are advised to seek a travel health consultation for individual risk assessment from a suitably qualified healthcare professional 6 – 8 weeks prior to their trip.

All travellers should avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids by:

  • Avoiding unprotected sexual intercourse, condoms (including use for oral sex) provide good but not complete protection.
  • Avoiding tattooing, piercing and acupuncture (where sterility of equipment cannot be guaranteed).
  • Not sharing needles or any other injection equipment.
  • Not sharing razors or toothbrushes.
  • Any traveller can be at risk of an accident or require emergency treatment. In many developing countries re-use of medical supplies, including needles and syringes is common. A sterile medical equipment kit may be helpful for those travelling to resource poor areas. Sterile medical kits are available from some chemists and travel clinics, containing sterile injecting equipment for use in an emergency (e.g. when wounds require suturing, an intravenous drip or injections are required or for dental surgery). These needle kits should be supplied with a certificate showing contents and the reason for its purchase, useful for customs clearance.