REFERENCE: Hill, L. L., Hovell, M. F., Benenson, A. S. (1991). Prevention of hepatitis B transmission in Indo-Chinese refugees with active and passive immunization. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 7, 29-32.
Hepatitis B is a cause of disability and death worldwide, with high rates of perinatal transmission in third world countries, including those of Indochina. Prevention of transmission by active and passive immunization has been available since 1982. This study looked at the serological response of Indo-Chinese refugees to these products in an outpatient primary care clinic and at the compliance problems found in this setting. The carrier rate of all patients screened was 81/446 (18.5%), with 37/233 (15.8%) of prenatal patients as carriers. Newborns whose mothers were carriers were started on an immunization program. The combination of HBIG and vaccine was more than 90% effective in inducing immunity and preventing the carrier state; only two children of the 26 studied who received both active and passive immunization became carriers. Both failures were in children of HBeAg positive mothers. In contrast, those children exposed who had not received treatment (because of birth prior to 1982) had a 33% carrier rate. This success rate was found despite compliance problems in completing the immunizations on schedule. Only 23% of children received their vaccine within four weeks of the recommended schedule, with a mean delay of 1.3 months. Of the 79 children beginning immunizations, 11 moved before completion. All children remaining in San Diego completed the regimen. Thus, the benefits of giving the passive and active immunization to infants of hepatitis B carriers were clear. However, compliance problems jeopardize the effectiveness of a hepatitis B immunization program in this population. Health care providers who treat Indo-Chinese patients need to screen for hepatitis B and be committed to long-term tracking programs to ensure completion of treatment.