Philippines: Home birthing hampers anti-hepatitis B campaign
The country’s efforts to eliminate hepatitis B, a chronic liver disorder that affects 16 million Filipinos, is being hampered by the practice of many mothers to give birth at home, an expert from the University of the Philippines (UP)–Manila said.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of he UP-Manila’s National Institute of Health, said 40 percent of Filipino mothers still give birth at home so their newborns are not covered by the free anti-hepatitis B vaccination of the government.
“The vaccination system is not that efficient but the vaccines are available. It’s just that the babies born in the home are not being vaccinated,” she said.
The vaccines are free in government health facilities under a law that was passed to curb hepatitis B, the most common but serious infection worldwide.
Some 360 million individuals are believed carrying the virus globally, some 16 million of them in the Philippines.
Bravo said hepatitis B is “highly preventable” only if all newborns would be vaccinated within the first 24 hours of their life. The disease predisposes an infected individual to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
“This is why it is very important for our mothers to give birth in birthing facilities. If babies are born in the home, they cannot be vaccinated. We cannot delay this because vaccination should be done immediately after birth,” she added.
In the Philippines, the disease is spread primarily through mother-to-child during birth delivery.
The other mode of transmission is through blood-to-blood or body fluid contacts. This takes place during drug transfusion, intravenous drug use, sharing of infected needles, tattooing and body piercing, and by having multiple sex partners.
To protect infants from the virus, they should be vaccinated thrice, with the first dose given shortly after birth, the second dose a month later, and the third dose six months later.
Bravo has underscored the need for the government to come out with a system to reach out to babies born at home. She said midwives would play a big role in this since they are the ones mostly attending to home delivery.
“It may take time to convince all mothers to give birth in birthing facilities. But we must look for ways on how we can effective implement the vaccination against hepatitis B,” she added.http://bit.ly/ovmumP