Concern Raised About Hepatitis B Infection in People Who Inject Drugs

10 February 2022

The new Shooting Up report has been published by the UK Government Health Security Agency. The report’s main messages and recommendations reflects concern about Hepatitis B in people who inject drugs.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination is recommended as high priority for all people who currently inject drugs. However, across the UK, around a third of people who inject drugs (PWID) have never been vaccinated. The report states that although HBV infection among this group is currently rare, it is essential that guidelines on vaccination are followed and that vaccination should be particularly promoted among PWID of younger age and recent initiates to injecting, for whom uptake is known to be low.

The report concludes that “further work is needed to explore the barriers to uptake of HBV vaccination and strategies for increasing vaccine coverage should be developed and evaluated.”

Norma Westland, Lead Hepatitis Scotland says, “This is a potential area of concern. Vaccination is a highly effective preventative measure and is available from blood borne virus clinics, but the rate of uptake has declined in Scotland.

“We are fortunate to have a vaccine for HBV and we need to continue to ensure people at risk are getting tested and vaccinated. We are currently working on raising awareness of HBV vaccines in people who have English as a second language and are keen to work with others to increase vaccination in people at risk through injecting drug use.”

The Shooting Up report highlights the need for more comprehensive communication to the various demographics and regions across Scotland, including semi-rural areas as well as cities.

Read the report here.

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