Zimbabwean doctor leads global effort to prevent Hepatitis B transmission


A Zimbabwean medical doctor based in Geneva, Switzerland, is playing a key role in designing a programme to deliver a vaccine that can prevent mother-to-child transmission of Hepatitis B virus in 55 low-income countries. 

Dr Simbarashe Mabaya 

Dr Simbarashe Mabaya, who works at the Gavi Vaccine Alliance Headquarters, said he was honoured to be part of the team that is working to make the Hepatitis B Birth dose vaccine available to all those who need it across the globe in a post on X, a social media platform. 

The Hepatitis B Birth Dose vaccine is one of the most effective ways of preventing Chronic liver disease and Hepatocellular carcinoma. I am honored to be part of the Gavi team working to ensure that this vaccine is available to all those who need it across the globe, he said.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.

Mother-to-child transmission is one of the main modes of hepatitis B infection in endemic areas, especially in Africa and Asia. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all infants receive their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. This can reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission by up to 95%.

Health Times writes, “According to data published in the Lancet, each year over a quarter of a million children acquire chronic hepatitis B at birth. Tens of thousands will go on to lose their lives prematurely from liver cancer or other forms of liver disease. These deaths could have been prevented if they had received the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine. Almost a million lives are lost each year to liver cancer and other liver diseases caused by chronic hepatitis B infection.”

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is a public-private partnership that aims to increase access to immunisation in poor countries. Since 2000, Gavi has been supporting the delivery of the hepatitis B vaccine primary course excluding the birth dose. However, evidence has shown that adding the birth dose can significantly improve the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Dr Mabaya is a renowned Zimbabwean doctor who has been working in Geneva since 2021. He graduated from the University of Zimbabwe Medical School in 2015 and completed his postgraduate training in public health and epidemiology at Harvard University in 2019. He joined Gavi as a senior programme officer in charge of hepatitis B and other new vaccines.

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