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EVER SINCE the hepatitis B vaccine was licensed in November 1981, its cost has been a major deterrent to its use, particularly in the regions of the world where it is most needed. At $100 for the necessary three doses, the vaccine is well beyond the reach of most of those living in Southeast Asia, China, SubSaharan Africa, and the Amazon basin.
In these areas, between 5% and 30% of the population are chronic carriers of the virus and as a result are at risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. Of the more than 280 million carriers of hepatitis B throughout the world, it has been estimated that 50 million will die of hepatitis B-induced liver disease.
Moves are now afoot that promise to radically change this grim picture. A year ago an international group of nine physicians banded together and, with $2.4 million from the James S. McDonnell
Hope for New, Cheaper, Plasma-Derived Vaccine: End Hepatitis B Transmission in Developing Nations. JAMA. 1987;258(11):1434. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400110014004