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Clarification on the Expanded Programme on Immunisation-SA (EPI-SA) Schedule
Date Added: 08 March 2007
Source: ECDOH News
Keywords: Hepatitis B vaccine

It has come to the attention of the National Department of Health that some representatives of certain vaccine producing companies are informing Health Professionals and the Public that Hepatitis B vaccine should be given at birth. This is certainly not part of the EPI schedule that the Department of Health follows.

According to the EPI - SA schedule there is no Hepatitis B vaccine dose at birth. Hep B vaccine is given at the same time with DPT-Hib (haemophilus influenzae typ b vaccine) at: 6, 10 and 14 weeks. This schedule is the most suitable for South Africa and has taken into consideration the prevalence of Hepatitis B infection in the country. The schedule was developed in consultation with UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is currently followed by all Provincial Departments of Health in the country and by a large number of other countries with socioeconomic and disease patterns similar to South Africa.

The current EPI schedule is as follows:

Schedule for Childhood Immunisation * EPI -SA
Age Vaccine
Birth TOPV (0), BCG
6 weeks TOPV (1), DTP- Hib (1), Hep B (1)
10 weeks TOPV (2), DTP- Hib (2), Hep B (2)
14 weeks TOPV (3), DTP- Hib (3), Hep B (3)
9 months MEASLES (1)
18 months TOPV (4), DTP MEASLES (2)
5 - 7 years (school entry)* TOPV (5), Td
12-15 years (school leaving)* Td
*Kindly note: the current schedule goes up to 5 years, with a DT dose at 5 years. A Td at 5 years to replace DT and an additional dose of Td at 12 years is soon to be introduced.

TOPV Trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine
DTP Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis Vaccine
DT Diphtheria & Tetanus Vaccine
Hep B Hepatitis B Vaccine
BCG Bacillus Calmette Guerin (Anti-tuberculosis Vaccine)
Hib Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

The National Department of Health is however aware that a certain vaccine product, Infanrix Hexa which is a combination of: diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, inactivated polio, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influnzae can only be used at 6, 10 and 14 weeks if a Hepatitis B dose was given at birth. This is the requirement of this product and has no relevance to the EPI * SA schedule, as this product is not part of the EPI schedule and is only available to a minority of the population, that makes use of the private providers who may prefer to use this product. There is no scientific basis nor any benefit provided by subjecting newborns to an injection of a Hepatitis B dose.

The Department of Health and the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI-SA) is deeply concerned by the confusion on the Immunisation schedule caused by the marketing of this product.

Health Professionals are alerted to the fact that there is no need to give Hepatitis B vaccine at birth if they are following the EPI schedule, using the vaccine products that are part of the EPI-SA schedule.

Queries can be directed to: Dr Ntombenhle J Ngcobo:
Expanded Programme on Immunisation:

Tel: 012 312 0099
Issued by the Chief Directorate: Communication Media Liaison & Public Information National Department of Health

For more information contact: Fidel Hadebe 012 312 0663/079 517 3333 Or Bhungani Mzolo 012 312 3331/083 589 4999

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