Preventing Hepatitis B: We Have Vaccines, But Not Implementation

Hepatitis B prevention needs more real-world studies, according to an expert who gave a presentation at CROI.

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H. Nina Kim, MD, MSc, a professor and hepatologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, gave a presentation titled “HBV Prevention: Newer Vaccines and the Boundaries of HBV Protection” at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections 2023 (CROI2023) held in February.

Kim focused on 2 hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccines––the CpG-adjuvanted hepatitis B vaccine and the 3-antigen hepatitis B vaccine. Both are licensed in multiple countries but are still relatively new hepatitis B prevention modalities.

As the first protein-based hepatitis B vaccine has been licensed for 40 years, it may lead some people to disregard the severity and urgency of hepatitis B erroneously. “Hepatitis B…remains a major public health issue today,” said Kim. “People living with HIV are particularly vulnerable.”

“The fact that we have a number of available vaccines doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody is getting them the way that they’re supposed to,” Kim said. Social determinants of health, such as race, socioeconomic status, or geographic location, often inhibit patients most at risk of contracting hepatitis B from obtaining the treatment and protection they need. “It’s not for the lack of available tools,” she emphasized.

Kim said she hopes the future of hepatitis B virus vaccines will include more real-world studies. “You want to look at how these drugs or vaccines perform in settings where you’re not going to see that uniformity in patient characteristics.”

In addition to raising public awareness, Kim wants to see better hepatitis B representation at CROI. She noted that there were relatively few posters and abstracts on hepatitis B at CROI 2023 and said, “I’m hoping in years to come in CROI that that will change, that there are just a lot more people excited about looking at hepatitis B prevention and treatments.”