Parents have been waiting months to vaccinate their children against Hepatitis B but the government says its procurement unit is chasing a fresh stock of the jab.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and vaccination against it is listed in the national Child Immunisation Schedule, which means it is obligatory.

However, parents who spoke to Times of Malta have had their child’s appointment postponed more than once.

The Health Ministry failed to say when stocks would be replenished.

A spokesperson said there was an international shortage of the vaccine but that the Central Procurement and Supplies Unit “is awaiting arrival of pending orders which have been hastened”.

The shortage means that children are missing the second or third doses of the vaccination course: on the National Immunisation Schedule the jab is started at 12 months, with a second dose one month later and a third given six months from the first dose.

A concerned mother said she initially had an appointment for her son’s third dose in May, which was postponed to this month. However, when she went to the clinic again she was told the vaccine was out of stock.

An attempt to procure the vaccine privately brought the same response.

According to the Health Ministry spokesperson, delaying the second or third dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine will not “in any way” negatively impact the effectiveness of the jab.

She noted that next year, the Health Department will start providing a vaccination called ‘six-in-one’ that would include prevention against Hepatitis B.

This would replace the current Hepatitis B paediatric vaccine and a separate ‘five-in-one’ jab, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and polio.