Nationwide hepatitis B immunization program launched in Taiwan for 3 decades reaps fruitful outcomes


This year marked the 30th anniversary of the universal hepatitis B vaccination program for infants launched in Taiwan. Nowadays, the hepatitis B virus (HBV) carrier rate among Taiwanese children under 6 years old is less than 0.8%, which has achieved the goal of less than 1% set by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, it should be noted that the HBV vaccine does not give a lifetime protection against the virus. Hence, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) urges hemodialysis patients and people with immune deficiency or primary immunodeficiency disorder to receive self-paid booster doses of HBV vaccine. 

The world's first universal HBV vaccination program for infants was implemented in Taiwan 30 years ago. Since then, the HBV carrier rate among children under 6 years old has been largely decreased from 10.5% to less than 0.8%. The program has successfully prevented the vertical (mother-to-child) transmission and proved that the vaccine may help prevent liver cancer. Taiwan CDC expresses sincere appreciation to many great devotional predecessors, including Robert Palmer Beasley (deceased), Sung Juei-low (宋瑞樓) (deceased), Lo Kuang-ruei (羅光瑞), Lee Chin-yun (李慶雲), Liao Yun-fan(廖運範), Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信), Chen Pei-jer (陳培哲) and so on, for their research contribution. 

Back then, there were four scholars who all shared the same last name, Hsu, including the former Department of Health (DOH) Minister Hsu Tzu-chiu (許子秋) (deceased), the former Epidemic Prevention Bureau Director Hsu Shu-tao (許書刀) (deceased), and two infectious disease specialists Hsu Kwo-hsiung (許國雄)and Hsu Hsu-mei (許須美), turned their research results into practical policies. Without their efforts, it was impossible to effectively reduce the threats posed by liver diseases in Taiwan. It was worth to mention that Hsu Hsu-mei (許須美), who formulated the plan for infectious disease prevention, was Hsu Kwo-hsiung’s (許國雄) classmate when they were still attending the National Taiwan University and she later married Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信). Their relationships have resulted in remarkable achievements and produced a charming story. 

Hepatitis B virus is spread by coming into contact with blood and body fluids.  This may happen through sexual contacts, transfusions of contaminated blood, and injections. In the past, nearly half of the HBV carriers in Taiwan acquired the virus via mother-to-child transmission. After the implementation of the universal HBV vaccination program, the HBV carrier rate and naturally infection rate both dropped significantly. Nevertheless, there are still about 10% of the pregnant women with high hepatitis B viral load who could not prevent passing hepatitis B to their child through vaccinations. Besides, the vaccine does not confer lifelong immunity. Taiwan CDC advises at-risk individuals such as hemodialysis patients and those with immune deficiency or primary immunodeficiency disorder to receive self-paid booster doses of the vaccine if their antibody level decreases. In addition, any healthy individuals who are concerned about their risk for contracting the disease could consult with a physician concerning their need for the booster dose.

Although the hepatitis B carrier rate has to decrease, there ae still millions of chronic HBV carriers in Taiwan who are at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Therefore, Taiwan CDC urges the public to have periodic liver function tests and ultrasound scans. For more information B, please visit the Taiwan CDC website ( or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline 1922 (+886-800-001922).