OBJECTIVE: To examine the policies and practices in hospitals within the state of Victoria, Australia, with respect to vaccination of staff against hepatitis B infection.
DESIGN: A written self-administered questionnaire to be completed by the infection control officer (or designated officer for hepatitis B vaccination) within each hospital.
SETTING: Public (teaching and nonteaching) and private hospitals, including metropolitan and rural institutions in Victoria.
PARTICIPANTS: A random sample of 30% of Victorian hospitals were asked to participate in the survey. Of 78 eligible institutions, 69 (88%) completed and returned questionnaires.
RESULTS: There was no consistent hepatitis B prevention policy in place across Victoria. Of the 69 responding hospitals, 63 (91%) offered hepatitis B vaccination to staff, and 58 (84%) of these also paid all costs of vaccination. Of the 63 hospitals offering vaccination to staff, 39 offered vaccination to all staff, 23 offered vaccination based on job title, and one offered vaccination based on anticipated exposure. In many institutions, postexposure protocols were recalled more readily than preexposure vaccination guidelines. Numerous respondents indicated a need for clear guidelines on policy and clarification on practical matters of management, such as acceptable immune levels, management of nonresponders to the primary series, and the need for, and timing of, booster doses of vaccine. Eleven (18%) of the 63 hospitals offering hepatitis B vaccination to staff undertook routine prevaccination screening, a practice not generally regarded as cost-effective in Australia. Fifty-five of these hospitals (91%) also undertook postvaccination screening.
CONCLUSIONS: It is evident from this study that a considerable number of potentially susceptible healthcare personnel in Victorian hospitals remain unprotected against hepatitis B infection. A more reliable and consistent approach to preexposure hepatitis B vaccination is recommended.