Worldwide about 1.5 million patients still suffer from hepatitis A every year. The causative agent, the hepatitis A virus (HAV), mainly attacks the liver. Symptoms include fever, nausea, abdominal pain and discomfort, dark urine, pale stools and jaundice (yellow colorisation of the eyes and skin). Illness usually lasts one to three weeks and is almost always followed by complete recovery. Small children who become infected usually have no symptoms or the disease goes undiagnosed. Fulminant cases are very rare and are mostly seen in adults. Vaccines, mainly based on formalin-inactivated viruses produced in cell-culture, have been available on the Belgian market since 1992. These vaccines are well-tolerated and highly-immunogenic. They provide long-lasting protection against hepatitis A infection in children and adults.
While no effective treatment is available against hepatitis A infection (other than liver transplantation for rare fulminant cases), vaccination of individuals implemented according to selected strategies at international and national levels, together with improved sanitary conditions, have contributed to a substantial reduction of the (economic) burden associated with disease management.
The purpose of the project was to evaluate the effectiveness, utility and cost-effectiveness of possible vaccination strategies for hepatitis A in Belgium, with the aim to make policy recommendations.