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August 23, 2019

Opinion: Health equity is the real vaccine for hepatitis A

Opinion Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A outbreak in United States PA Images/PA Images

A vaccination syringe is pictured above. Hepatitis A infections have increased in the United States during the last three years despite an effective vaccine being available.

John Kopp’s August 19, 2019 article, “Pennsylvania funding vaccines to prevent spread of hepatitis A amid outbreak” shows Philadelphia County as having more cases reported than all the other counties.

People with unstable housing, drug users, and those currently or recently incarcerated are at higher risk of contraction (CDC, 2019) of hepatitis A. According to the Census Bureau (2017), Philadelphia’s population make-up is 42.6 percent African-American, its average household income is lower than the nation’s average and the city has twice as many people living in poverty than the U.S. average.

BRFSS Data (2017) shows that African-Americans in Philadelphia have the lowest average income. The majority of the prison population in Pennsylvania were African-Americans (47 percent).

The hepatitis A vaccine is nothing more than a bandage.

I encourage Gov. Wolf to focus on primary prevention, like reducing racial bias by raising awareness of health disparities and social determinants of health within the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as well as with the stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth.

Health equity must be integrated in state strategic priorities and plans so funds for hepatitis A vaccine won’t be necessary.

Carolina Cerino is student at the University of Pennsylvania.


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