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High Infection and Low Vaccination of Hepatitis B in Tibet

Hepatitis B is reportedly one of highly prevalence in Tibetan communities. Sixty-one percent of Tibetans living in Nepal are infected, according to Dr. Lhamo Sharpa, a Nepal based Tibetan doctor. Dr. Lhamo, who directly works with researchers in Tibet, says rural Tibetans in Tibet are especially vulnerable because of the lack of access to proper vaccination. Only 3.1 percent of population in the entire Western China have received hepatitis B vaccine so far. It started in 2004. The lack of education is also s contributor of the problem. Dr. Lhamo believes many monks get Hepatitis B through sharing razor or going to hair salons that don’t sterilize their equipment. A study Dr. Lhamo and her colleagues conducted shows about 64 to 90 percent of women in rural Tibetan areas give birth at home, thus have no access to vaccines for their new born babies. “Those who give birth at home don’t go to hospitals unless they are sick,” says Dr. Lhamo. “They don’t go to hospital because they are not aware of the vaccines and that is a problem.” Another problem is failure of vaccine itself. Dr. Lhamo believes vaccines in Tibet often get spoiled in transportation to rural areas. But questions also raised in media about the quality of vaccines produced in China. In January three top Chinese companies that produce 80 percent of the vaccine in China didn’t meet the quality requirement, according the Xinhua. In December 2013, New York Times reported at least 11 babies died in China after receiving Hepatitis B vaccine. Although not to the same extent, incident of babies’ death after giving hepatitis B vaccines have been claimed outside China as well. But Dr. Lhamo argues that this doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccines are bad. She argues it could be that vaccines are either expired or have not been handled properly before injecting them to the babies.