All babies could get hepatitis B jabs, after it was revealed the number of cases has almost doubled in the past 10 years.

Ministers are now discussing whether to offer the vaccination at the same time as those for other illnesses, such as polio, whooping cough and tetanus.

The increase in cases - up to 325,000 from 180,000 in 2002 - has been attributed to rising levels of unprotected sex and cases coming from immigrants from where the disease is more prevalent. Hepatitis B can cause liver cancer, liver disease and death.

The World Health Authority has called for Britain to fall into line with most of the rest of Europe, where such treatment is the norm. Currently, only "at risk" groups are offered the vaccination.

Dr George Kassianos, immunisation spokesman for the Royal College of GPs said: "We lag ten years behind other countries in not offering this vaccine. It is the only way to manage the increase of hepatitis B in this country. The current policy of only offering it to targeted populations isn't working.

"Migration has changed the hepatitis B epidemiology in the UK and whole of Europe. We need to do something about it while it is possible to control the disease by vaccination."

Posted by Robert Mair on 25.7.11 Please send your comments on this article to: