Dr Su Wang
President, World Hepatitis Alliance
Every day, babies are born around the world and become infected with the hepatitis B virus. It can happen during childbirth if the mother has hepatitis B and a high viral load.
A ticking time bomb
We need to stop this. We should be testing all pregnant women for hepatitis B and vaccinating all babies. If we did that, we would stop the passing on of this ticking bomb and entire generations could be saved.
The interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B are not new; the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine has been around for years and is available for pennies, but only 43% of babies receive it globally. Medications for treating a pregnant woman’s high viral load have been generic for years, but treatment is not always offered.
As a mother living with hepatitis B, I see this as an urgent crisis. My four children received the birth dose and are hepatitis B free and I am eternally grateful. But I am gravely concerned that this is not accessible to everyone. Mothers everywhere are struggling to get services, and they worry about passing on the infection.
I can only imagine the guilt they feel if their children are infected, and how they are plagued with worry over the life-changing impact on their child’s health and life opportunities. The tragedy is that it was preventable through simple and affordable interventions.
We should be testing all pregnant women for hepatitis B and vaccinating all babies.
It’s time to speak up
It is time for parents and family members to speak up. Mothers and babies deserve these simple tools to combat hepatitis B. The NOhep movement is the campaign for hepatitis elimination. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B is a critical piece of elimination. It is within our reach, but we must not wait.
We call on everyone to demand that governments, policy makers, health systems and international donors prioritise the health of mothers and babies.