By Hanning Mbabazi
The Ministry of Health is set to carry out a free screening and vaccination against Hepatitis B in Nakaseke district.
The exercise will take place in October 2019, targeting persons above 15-years as one of the strategies to scale down Hepatitis B infections and resultant deaths.
The acting Nakaseke District Health Officer Sister Kellen Musiime has said, on top of the Hepatitis B vaccination, the district will also participate in the National mass measles and Rubella immunization campaigns, which targets children from 9 months to 13-years. The Immunization will be done on 16th-20th October this year.
Speaking to the Nakaseke District Chairman Mr. Ignatius Kiwanuka Koomu, he said that a team from the Ministry of Health visited the district last week and confirmed the inclusion of the district on a list of beneficiaries to free vaccination. Koomu says that the vaccination will be a relief to the leadership and the communities.
The Nakaseke District Vice Chairman Mr. Richard Mavuma, said that the screening and vaccination will be conducted from Health Center III’s, IV’s and hospitals in the district at no cost. In a communication to councillors, Mavuma tasked them to mobilise communities to take advantage of the campaign to avert threats that the virus presents to their lives.
In the recent past, Nakaseke district leaders and members of parliament petitioned the Ministry of Health to conduct mass vaccination against the virus citing prohibitive costs and fake vaccines administered by private health workers. They argue that the district has registered a high number of Hepatitis B infections, many of which are undocumented.
The hepatitis B vaccine is the mainstay of hepatitis B prevention. The World Health Organisation recommends that all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The complete vaccine series induces protective antibody levels in more than 95 per cent of infants, children and young adults. Protection lasts at least 20 years and is probably lifelong.
According to the Uganda Population HIV Impact assessment 2016 survey, Hepatitis B infection prevalence varies across the country with the highest rates in Northern region with 4.6 per cent, 4.4 per cent in North East and 3.8 per cent in West Nile.
The Hepatitis virus, most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids, can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is also spread by needle stick injury, tattooing, piercing and exposure to infected blood and body fluids, such as saliva and, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids. According to the World Health Organisation, sexual transmission of hepatitis B may occur, particularly in unvaccinated men who have sex with men and heterosexual persons with multiple sex partners or contact with sex workers.
Hepatitis B infection was lower in the rest of the country with a range of 0.8 per cent in the South West region to 2 per cent in the Central region where Nakaseke district is found.