Hepatitis B vaccinations triple in English and Welsh prisons

The use of the hepatitis B vaccine in English and Welsh prisons has increased three times over the past six years, significantly lowering infections, according to a series of findings by the Health Protection Agency.

The agency, in its annual prison health report, reported that 27,161 vaccinations were administered in 2003 and 80,762 were administered in 2009, according to

The hepatitis B program, introduced in England and Wales in 2003, is believed to be responsible for a significant reduction in the rates of infection among intravenous drug users overall.

In 2000, before the program began, the rate of hepatitis B in intravenous drug users in prison was 30 percent. In 2009, it had fallen to 17 percent, demonstrating the program’s success both in and outside prison walls.

"This report shows that controlling the level of infections in prisons has an additional beneficial impact on infection rates in the community, Brian McCloskey, the HPA regional director for London and the agency’s prison program liaison, said, according to “The HPA will continue working closely alongside the Prison Service and Department of Health to ensure that the most effective and evidence-based programs and initiatives are in place to protect both prisoners' and the communities' health in England and Wales."

In addition to the hepatitis B vaccination program, the prisons have also seen a high number of inmates accepting chlamydia tests in the screening programs target age range. Close to 80 percent of all prisons and youth offender facilities took part in the program. The rate of Chlamydia prevalent in prisons was shown to be nine percent, two percent higher than the national average.

"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,” McCloskey said, reports. “Furthermore the reduction of infections in IDUs in the wider community supports the demand for the consideration of new screening programs in prisons which could also be used to reduce the case numbers of infection we see outside prison.”