Oct. 25, 2011 -- Do you have diabetes? Get the hepatitis B vaccine, says the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
By a 12-2 vote, the ACIP strongly recommended the hepatitis B vaccine for diabetes patients under age 60 who have not been fully vaccinated. It also urged hepatitis vaccination of some older diabetes patients.
Up to age 60, people with diabetes have twice the risk of hepatitis B as those without diabetes. Yet only 17% of those living with diabetes (and 26% of those without diabetes) have been fully vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Diabetes patients over age 60 may also be at increased risk. There have been a number of devastating outbreaks in nursing homes where hepatitis B was accidentally spread by shared glucose monitors.
Lifetime Protection Against Hepatitis B
The ACIP balked at making a stronger recommendation for older diabetes patients. Committee members were strongly influenced by the cost of vaccinating all over-60 people with diabetes. Also a factor in their decision is data showing that the vaccine is less likely to be effective in those who are frail and elderly.
The hepatitis vaccine is most effective in young adults. If they haven't already been vaccinated, people should get the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as they learn of their diabetes diagnosis, the ACIP advises. The three- or four-dose series offers protection that usually lasts a lifetime.
The hepatitis B virus infects the liver. While some people fight off the infection, others don't. Some 1.25 million Americans have long-lasting (chronic) hepatitis B infection. In the U.S., hepatitis B kills 3,000 to 5,000 people a year.
The ACIP is made up of independent experts who advise the CDC and FDA on vaccination policy. The committee's recommendations form the basis of the U.S. immunization schedules.