Antibody levels and immune memory 23 years after primary plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccination: Results of a randomized placebo-controlled trial cohort from China where endemicity is high
The duration of protection of hepatitis B vaccine remains incompletely understood. To assess the long-term protection provided by a primary vaccine series, the current study again recruited all subjects of a previous randomized placebo-controlled trial cohort 23 years after vaccination. Two hundred and sixty-one healthy children aged 5-9 years living in a highly HBV-endemic country were enrolled in the primary trial and received three doses of plasma-derived vaccine or placebo. The primary placebo receivers who did not receive any immunization against hepatitis B were used as non-vaccinated controls in the current study. After eliminating the interference of an early booster dose and vaccines outside the study, 48.1% (39/81) vaccinees still maintained anti-HBs titers >=10mIU/mL at Year 23, higher than 34.7% (26/75) in non-vaccinated controls (P=0.088). 75-100% of vaccinees with anti-HBs titer <0.01). No case of clinically significant HBV infection was found in the primary cohort during the whole 23 years, but 10 transient HBsAg seroconversions in the primary placebo group and one in the primary vaccine group were determined. Anti-HBc positive rate obviously tended to be lower in vaccinees compared with non-vaccinated controls at Year 23. These results suggest a persisting immune memory and certain protection for 23 years after primary vaccination in children living in highly HBV-endemic areas. Clinically insignificant infections, which cannot be avoided and may often occur in vaccinees, play a positive role in the maintaining of immunity to HBV. Booster doses should be unnecessary for more than 20 years after a full primary immunization in children (as catch-up vaccination) and, also likely, in newborns living in highly HBV-endemic areas.