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Hepatitis A vaccination during an outbreak among gay men in Montréal, Canada, 1995–1997

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE To evaluate an intervention designed to curtail an outbreak of hepatitis A among gay men, especially the young and sexually active, by promoting their free vaccination.

DESIGN The study analysed routine passive surveillance data, carried out questionnaire and serological surveys of vaccinees, and surveys among the target population in non-clinical venues.

SETTING AND INTERVENTION 15 000 free doses of hepatitis A vaccine were made available through clinics with large gay clienteles, or at gay events, and advertised by various means, in Montréal, Canada, from August 1996 to November 1997. Simultaneous vaccination against hepatitis B (always free for gay men) was also encouraged.

PARTICIPANTS Information was obtained from persons with the disease during the epidemic period, a sample of men requesting vaccination, and five community samples of gay men.

MAIN RESULTS The outbreak involved 376 gay men and the vaccine was distributed to approximately 10 000. Vaccinees were older than cases, but had many sex partners and comprised more food handlers. Special vaccination clinics at gay events were well attended but did not reach more high risk men than regular medical venues. A self reported vaccine coverage of 49% was achieved, but 26% of vaccinees already had anti-HAV antibodies. Disease incidence declined rapidly during the campaign.

CONCLUSIONS The intervention nearly tripled self reported hepatitis A vaccine coverage but its late start precludes proving that it caused the subsequent drop in incidence. However, it also increased hepatitis B vaccination and it is believed it improved links between gay men, public health, clinicians and community groups.

  • hepatitis A
  • immunisation
  • homosexuality

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