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Austrian doctors call for increased hepatitis vaccinations

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Hepatitis   40 percent of the Austrian population not adequately vaccinated

Austrian experts have called for increased vaccinations for hepatitis A and B with 40 percent of the Austrian population being inadequately vaccinated.

Austrian Medical Chamber (OeAeK) advisor for immunizations Rudolf Schmitzberger called for increased awareness, with 42,000 people in Austria infected with hepatitis B and 1,500 new cases occurring each year, while the numbers for hepatitis A are unknown, they said at a press conference in Vienna.

Ursula Kunze from the Institute for Social Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna said on the positive side that vaccination rates have almost doubled since 2001, and as hepatitis B is transmitted through bodily fluids it could in theory be completely stamped out.

The official Austrian immunization program for the disease implemented in 1997 recommends a first vaccination during infancy, and booster shots at 7 and 13 years of age.

Hepatitis A meanwhile is contracted through faecal bacteria and is as such considered to typically arise from poor hygiene. The official number of infections in 2014 was 54, though Schmitzberger said this cannot be taken at face value, the real figure likely much higher.

It occurs largely in toddlers at kindergartens and nurseries when they do not yet fully understand proper hygiene practice. Vaccinations are thus recommended before entering kindergarten.

As part of the effort to promote the vaccinations, pharmacies have reduced the price of the combined hepatitis A and B vaccine by 30 percent.

The experts added, however, that some people are less responsive to the vaccines than others, and may require multiple shots.

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