THURSDAY, Nov. 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- All U.S. adults younger than 60 should be vaccinated against hepatitis B, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended Wednesday.
Until now, the shots were recommended only for certain groups of adults, including prisoners, health care workers, international travelers, people with diabetes and certain other conditions, and those who inject drugs or who have multiple sexual partners, the Associated Press reported.
Hepatitis B vaccinations became standard for U.S. children in 1991, so most adults younger than 30 are already protected.
The government advisory committee's unanimous decision -- which still requires the approval of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- comes as progress against the liver-damaging disease stalls.
It's not clear when CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will make a decision on the committee's recommendation.
If she gives the OK, tens of millions of adults between the ages of 30 and 59 would be advised to get the shots against the liver-damaging disease, the AP reported.
The shots are given in either two or three doses, spaced a month or more apart. CDC data suggests that only about one-third of people with diabetes and chronic liver conditions have been vaccinated, and just two-thirds of eligible health care workers, the AP reported. Overall, about 30% of all adults are vaccinated.
Roughly 1.9 million Americans are living with hepatitis B infections, though many may not experience liver damage for many years. The U.S. government has set a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.
About 20,000 new hepatitis B infections occur each year in the United States, according to health officials. The rate has been generally stable, but has been rising among adults in their 40s and 50s. The virus is spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids, and many recent cases have been linked to the opioid epidemic, the AP said.
"We're losing ground. We cannot eliminate hepatitis B in the U.S. without a new approach," the CDC's Dr. Mark Weng told the AP.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on hepatitis B.
SOURCE: Associated Press