Commentary

April 25, 2014

8,800 Reservists to get Hepatitis B vaccinations

Approximately 8,800 Air Force Reservists will get Hepatitis B vaccinations due to a recent change in Department of Defense immunization rules.

The Defense Department is now requiring all servicemembers be immunized against the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), which causes a potentially fatal liver disease.  

According to the Air Force Reserve Command Surgeon General’s office, reservists born prior to 1990 are in the zone for the vaccinations. The Air Force has vaccinated all new accessions against Hepatitis B since 2002, as well as health care workers and most deployers, but there are still several thousand Airmen at risk for this disease.

 The Aeromedical Services Information Management System has been updated to comply with this requirement. Medical information records for those requiring the immunization series will have a yellow flag until the series is complete, SG officials said. Reservists have one year to complete the three-shot series. 

Airmen identified for the vaccinations will be scheduled for the series. The second vaccination is given one month after the first dose and the third dose is given five months after the second dose.

Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable blood-borne viral infection. It is a serious viral disease that infects the liver. HBV spreads through the blood and other bodily fluids of an infected person. The primary risk factors that have been associated with infection are unprotected sex with an infected partner, birth to an infected mother, unprotected sex with more than one partner, men who have sex with other men, history of sexually transmitted infection, and illegal injection drug use.

Hepatitis B can present itself in two ways. Among adults with acute Hepatitis B infection, less than two percent fail to clear the virus within six months after infection and develop a chronic HBV infection. The acute (short-term) illness symptoms include loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting, tiredness, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), and pain in muscles, joints and stomach. Among adults, about half of newly acquired HBV infections present with symptoms while one percent of reported cases experience acute liver failure and death. The chronic (long-term) infection may lead to liver damage, liver cancer, and death. Infants and young children usually show no symptoms. However, chronic infection is more common in infants and children than in adults. A person who is chronically infected can spread the virus to others, even if they don’t look or feel sick.

Service members can check their IMR status online by visiting the Air Force Surgeon Generals website at https://imr.afms.mil/imr/MyIMR.aspx.




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