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The uptake of the hepatitis B vaccine in prisons across England and Wales has increased three fold in the last six years from 27,161 vaccinations administered in 2003 to 80,762 in 2009

The findings are revealed in the Health Protection Agency's annual prison health report, published today.


Introduced in prisons in England and Wales in 2003 the hepatitis B vaccination programme has been responsible for a significant reduction in the transmission of the infection in injecting drug users (IDUs) overall. In 2000 the prevalence of hepatitis B in the IDU population was 30 per cent and since the introduction of the vaccination programme the overall prevalence in IDUs has decreased to 17 per cent in 2009, demonstrating the success of the prison vaccination campaign both inside and outside prison walls.

Hepatitis B is a bloodborne virus (HBV) which causes hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and can also cause long term liver damage. The virus is usually spread from person to person by sharing or using contaminated equipment during injecting drug use, vertical transmission (mother to baby), sexual transmission or receipt of infectious blood products via a transfusion.

In addition to the increase seen in uptake of the hepatitis B vaccine, prisons have also seen a high proportion of chlamydia tests accepted by prisoners within the screening programme's age target of 16-24. 82 per cent of all prisons and Young Offenders Institutes took part in the National Health Service-led Chlamydia Screening Programme in the 08/09 financial year. The overall positivity was nine per cent in prisons, which is higher than the current national average of seven per cent.

Dr Brian McCloskey, HPA regional director for London and the agency's prison health lead said:

"The increase we have seen in both the uptake of the Hepatitis B vaccine and the Chlamydia test in prisons is extremely positive news and confirms the need for the continuation of these successful vaccination and screening campaigns. Furthermore the reduction of infections in IDUs in the wider community supports the demand for the consideration of new screening programmes in prisons which could also be used to reduce the case numbers of infection we see outside prison.

"This report shows that controlling the level of infections in prisons has an additional beneficial impact on infection rates in the community. The HPA will continue working closely alongside the Prison Service and Department of Health to ensure that the most effective and evidence-based programmes and initiatives are in place to protect both prisoners' and the communities' health in England and Wales."

Source: HPA

Written by Scott Buckler
Thursday, 17 March 2011 14:02

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