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Issue Number 44            January 11, 1999



The 20/20 news story on hepatitis B will not be aired on Wednesday night, January 13. A staff person at 20/20 has informed the Immunization Action Coalition that the hepatitis B program has been "bumped." According to that same staff person, the hepatitis B news story might be aired this Friday, January 15, or Sunday, January 18. We'll let you know when and if it will be aired. Stay tuned!

  1. News story on hepatitis B vaccine to air on 20/20 this Wednesday


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January 13, 1999

A national news story on hepatitis B vaccine is scheduled to be aired on ABC's 20/20 program on Wednesday, January 13, at 10 p.m., EST. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the program is likely to focus on alleged adverse events associated with hepatitis B vaccine.

In a letter dated January 8, Walter A. Orenstein, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Surgeon General, Director, National Immunization Program, CDC, wrote the following:

"From interview questions, we surmise that 20/20's story is likely to focus on alleged adverse events associated with hepatitis B vaccine (e.g., multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, optic neuritis, Lupus). We also know that the 20/20 reporters contacted states to learn more about laws requiring hepatitis B vaccination."

To assist health professionals in responding to questions generated by the story, CDC released a message from Dr. Orenstein. The message appears on CDC's website and is dated January 8. It reads as follows:

"Infant, adolescent, and adult immunization plays an important role in disease prevention and reduction. Although no vaccine is perfect, the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risks. Thanks to vaccines, fewer cases of vaccine-preventable diseases were reported in 1998 than in any previous year. In addition, recent changes in the nation's vaccine recommendations have made immunizations even safer.

"The National Immunization Program is committed to strengthening vaccine programs and further improving disease prevention. Vaccine safety is constantly monitored and vaccine safety concerns are being investigated and addressed.

"Today, thanks to their relative rarity, it is easy to forget that vaccine preventable diseases can cause lasting brain damage, liver cancer, paralysis, and premature death. It is important to remember, however, vaccines are the primary reason there are so few cases of such childhood diseases as measles, whooping cough, rubella (German measles), and hepatitis B."

CDC has also included a list of links on their website that will provide you with more information about hepatitis B vaccine. You can click on any of the following items or you can click here and receive the list of links as well as the above message.

  1. General information on hepatitis B vaccine,
  2. Questions and answers on hepatitis B vaccine,
  3. Questions and answers on vaccine safety,
  4. Vaccine safety and injury compensation,
  5. "What Would Happen If We Stopped Vaccination?"
  6. A recent statement on the importance of immunization by Donna Shalala, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
  7. A list of contact telephone numbers and Internet sites that can be accessed to provide more information.

Current information on hepatitis and the hepatitis B vaccine can also be obtained by contacting:
the National Immunization Information Hotline (1-800-232-2522)
the Hepatitis Hotline (1-888-443-7232) National Immunization Program website at
Hepatitis Branch website at


CDC encourages you to refer media inquiries to CDC's Media Relations Division (404-639-3286). The Media Relations Division can direct reporters to CDC's hepatitis B vaccine and vaccine safety experts.

CDC is also very interested in how many calls you or your organization receive as a result of this national news story as well as the nature of those inquiries. This information will help CDC better serve you and your patient/clients. Email this information to Glen Nowak, Associate Director for Communications at the National Immunization Program, at

About IZ Express

IZ Express is supported in part by Grant No. 1NH23IP922654 from CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Its contents are solely the responsibility of and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

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Editorial Information

  • Editor-in-Chief
    Kelly L. Moore, MD, MPH
  • Managing Editor
    John D. Grabenstein, RPh, PhD
  • Associate Editor
    Sharon G. Humiston, MD, MPH
  • Writer/Publication Coordinator
    Taryn Chapman, MS
    Courtnay Londo, MA
  • Style and Copy Editor
    Marian Deegan, JD
  • Web Edition Managers
    Arkady Shakhnovich
    Jermaine Royes
  • Contributing Writer
    Laurel H. Wood, MPA
  • Technical Reviewer
    Kayla Ohlde

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