Hepatitis C is a disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and it infects an estimated 3 million people worldwide every year. There is an acute infection of the disease in which the immune system tries to take care of the virus, but it only does so in 20% of cases. The 80% that does not experience a cure goes through chronic disease, which is asymptomatic and can last for many years without notice. During this time, the virus keeps harming the liver, and the patient develops cirrhosis and sometimes liver cancer.
This article will highlight the most critical aspects of the vaccine for hepatitis C. There is currently no vaccine, and it is imperative to have one for several reasons.
Why do we need a hepatitis C vaccine?
The reasons for a hepatitis C vaccine are clearly seen in the statistics around the world. For example:
- There are around 170 million people with hepatitis C around the world, and this number keeps on growing.
- The disease is currently the most common cause of liver transplantation because up to 20% of chronic cases end up in liver cirrhosis.
- It is prevalent in Africa and some parts of Asia, and it is estimated that 20% of the population in these countries is infected by hepatitis C.
- The available treatment to eradicate the disease is costly and needs to be held for a very prolonged time with various potential side effects.
Besides the statistics, we can also review the exact reasons we need a prophylactic (preventative) and therapeutic (curative) vaccine.
One would think that a prophylactic vaccine is more necessary than a therapeutic vaccine. However, this can be debated because the countries that really need a therapeutic vaccine also need to change their social practices and cultural background to prevent hepatitis C. This type of prevention is much easier and less expensive. Additionally, the spread of a prophylactic vaccine in high-risk and poorer countries will be quite challenging compared to developed countries.
On the other hand, a therapeutic vaccine can be significantly useful to prompt the immune system to eradicate the virus from the liver. This would reduce the need for expensive equipment and reduce the incidence of their side effects. The current treatment course cost rises up to 7000 pounds in the UK, a price that won’t be easily afforded in developed countries. Newer options are still more expensive.