Close to 60,000 children of northwest China's Qinghai Province will benefit from of a program launched with the purpose of preventing spread of hepatitis B in the province.
The program run by the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control (CFHPC) and the Asian Liver Center of Stanford University of the United States jointly provides free vaccines for children from 331 kindergartens, primary and high schools in the Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
All the children will be inoculated against hepatitis B from this month to May next year at a cost of more than two million yuan (250,000 U.S. dollars), according to the Qinghai Provincial Health Bureau.
The Asian Liver Center at Stanford University is a non-profit center established to address the high incidence of hepatitis B in Asians and Asian-Americans.
The Qinghai program would also raise awareness of hepatitis B prevention among children, said Li Yanming, head of disease control center under the provincial health bureau. Li refused to disclose the number of carriers in the province.
Li said Qinghai had made marked progress in vaccination among children, especially among infants since the vaccination was put on the list of planned immunity by the government in 2002.
Currently, 85 percent of infants in Qinghai are inoculated.
Nationwide, 75 percent of babies were inoculated in 2004, compared with 60 percent before 2002, according to Ministry of Health figures.
However, the number of children inoculated in Qinghai Province varies according to location. Some children in remote and poverty-stricken rural areas can not be vaccinated in a timely way, Li said.
The CFHPC and the Asian Liver Center jointly launched the program to help local children get timely inoculations and reduce the incidence of hepatitis B among children.
The program will also train local medical staff in prevention and treatment.
The Qinghai program is one of a series jointly launched by the CFHPC and the Chinese Ministry of Health targeting hepatitis B this year.
Other programs include a two-year project to improve awareness of hepatitis B prevention among rural women and to help train medical practitioners in treatment in rural areas.
Pilots projects were kicked off in Zhenyuan and Wushan counties of northwest China's Gansu Province on Saturday. The pilot projects will cover approximately 600 grassroots medical workers and 340,000 rural women of child-bearing age.
China has seen high incidence of hepatitis B, with the number of carriers estimated at 120 million out of a population of 1.3 billion.
According to the Ministry of Health, China has about 20 million chronic hepatitis B patients. The country reports 280,000 deaths from hepatocirrhosis and liver cancer relating to hepatitis B virus infection each year. Hepatitis B has been one of the top killer infectious diseases in the country for many years.
The Ministry of Health has drafted regulations on prevention and treatment, aiming to reduce the number of people who test positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), the incidence of cases and deaths from hepatocirrhosis and liver cancer.
China reported 982,297 hepatitis B cases last year.