The Ministry of Health (MOH) has promulgated a plan on viral hepatitis prevention for the 2015-2019 period to reduce the spread of hepatitis viruses and improve community access to screening, treatment and care services, said Tran Dac Phu, Head of the MOH’s Preventive Health Department.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that about two billion people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis B virus and around 130 – 150 million people were chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus in 2014. About one million people die every year as a result of the viral disease, or 2.7 percent of all fatalities globally.

Hepatitis B and C viruses are major causes of liver cancer and cirrhosis. An estimated 57 percent of cases of liver cirrhosis and 78 percent of cases of primary liver cancer result from hepatitis B and C virus infections.

According to the Preventive Health Department, 8-25 percent of people in certain population groups in Vietnam have hepatitis B and some 2.5 – 4.1 percent of such population groups are positive for hepatitis C.

Chronic hepatitis remains a major public health problem and liver cancer is the most common cause of cancer mortalities in Vietnam.

The hepatitis B vaccine has been used in the country’s Expanded Programme of Immunisation since 1997 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

It has been given to children under one year old nationwide since 2003 with a coverage rate of over 90 percent.

Since 2006, the vaccine has been applied to newborns within the first 24 hours after birth. Pregnant women are also encouraged to be screened for hepatitis to prevent mother-to-child transmissions.-VNA