Butler County’s health commissioner, Jenny Bailer, has one solution to curbing the hepatitis A outbreak: Agencies that deal with high-risk groups could innoculate them. FILE PHOTO

Official: If agencies would vaccinate for hepatitis A, that would help

The state of Ohio would provide not only the vaccines, but refrigerators to store them, Bailer said.

“The people who are getting hepatitis A are somewhat of a transient group of people.” she said. “So it’s a little hard to find them so that we can offer vaccines to their contacts or proactively vaccinate them before they get the disease.”

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Those most at risk for the disease are drug users, including marijuana; those who are homeless or recently have been; those in jail or who recently have been; and men who have sex with men.

“We’d like to vaccinate all of them, but they’re a little hard to find,” Bailer said. Health officials have given more than 2,000 vaccinations since this fall to try to stem the outbreak, which can spread to people in low-risk groups by, for example, someone working in a restaurant.

“What we really need is for our partners, who see these people on a regular basis, to also be giving hepatitis A vaccines as a matter of course every time they have a new person come in,” she said. “That would be jails and drug-treatment centers. Those are our high-risk groups. We can’t find them that easily, but they’re going to rehab and treatment, and they’re going to jail, unfortunately. So we really need help from those partners to vaccinate.”

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Many of the agencies already give other once-monthly injections, like Vivitrol, a drug that blocks opioid receptors in the brain for about a month, helping prevent patients from relapsing to heroin and other opioids. The agencies likely would have to create a policy for giving such vaccinations, she said.

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