Dorset residents planning a holiday are being warned they may not be able to get the Hepatitis B vaccine due to a global shortage of stock.

Dorset is among the places where the vaccine is being rationed, reportedly being caused by ‘manufacturing issues’ due to a lack of antigens. 

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver, transmitted through contact with blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. New measures have been put in place so that only high-risk groups and babies will be prioritised for the vaccine whilst supplies are limited. Others may have to defer the vaccine until later. 

Travellers visiting countries where there is a high risk of contracting the disease have been warned they may not be able to get the vaccine.

The restrictions are expected to stay in place until early 2018. 

A spokesman for PHE South West said: “All patients will be risk assessed on a case by case basis and those at significant risk will be protected.

This includes anyone who is known to have been exposed to Hepatitis B which includes infants born to mothers with the virus. 

“The lowest priority is people who have already had three doses and who in some circumstances may otherwise be given a booster or reinforcing dose.

“PHE is assisting with risk assessments for patients attending GPs and this shortage is not affecting the new infant immunisation programme.

“Travellers who are going to areas with high levels of hepatitis B for an extended period of time may be prioritised. The risk to unvaccinated travellers is low unless they engage in specific risky behaviour.”

PHE has said the measures will be ‘kept under review’. 

People have been advised to reduce their risk of contracting the virus by: 

  • avoiding unprotected sex
  • not injecting drugs, and not sharing needles when injecting
  • avoiding having tattoos, piercing or acupuncture when overseas
  • avoiding accessing medical or dental care in high prevalence countries

Data from Public Health Dorset for 2015/16 showed there were less than 20 infants reaching the age of one year across Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole who required a course of Hepatitis B in infancy.

PHE announced on August 1 that newborn babies in the UK would be given the vaccine as part of PHE’s universal childhood immunisation programme.