Chinese kindergartens and nurseries for children aged 6 and younger will no longer be allowed to deny entry to students simply because they have hepatitis B (HB), according to a proposed new regulation from the Ministry of Health.
The public can offer feedback on the draft rule until Aug 15. It will likely replace the current regulation, which took effect in December 1994 and did not require the institutions to accept children with chronic hepatitis B, a source with the ministry said.
The draft regulation requires the facilities to report to medical authorities and enforce strict sterilization measures if infected children are enrolled.
Under the rule, children will need to present health records issued by authorized medical institutions and their guardians must take them for treatment should they display infectious disease symptoms.
Currently, many young HB virus carriers are rejected by kindergartens, even though it is unusual for them to spread the illness to classmates, said Wang Zhao, vice-president of the China Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control.
"I very much welcome the long-awaited regulation which would help remove HB discrimination against innocent young children," she told China Daily over the phone on Friday.
Around 2 percent of children under six in China have the illness. China now has nearly 100 million HB carriers.
Since 2002, the government has vaccinated nearly all newborns for free, which has substantially reduced the prevalence among children.
Some, who were born at home instead of hospitals, may have been left out of the vaccination program and face greater risks of HB, Wang said.
"Given the immunity screen established by wide inoculation among children and special transmission channels, kindergartens have no reason to reject HB-positive children," she said.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through exposure to infected blood and is not transmitted casually, according to the World Health Organization.
However, the awareness level among the public is low.
Liu Mengyu, 31, an office clerk in Beijing, said she would transfer her 4-year-old son to another kindergarten if children with HB were detected at the one he attends.
Kindergarten leaders tend to reject HB-positive children because of pressure from parents, Wang said.
"It's unfair for these children who fall victims to people's ignorance," she said.
Last November, 101 mothers solicited help in an open letter after their HB-positive children were rejected by kindergartens.
Among then, a mom surnamed Chen expressed her deep concern.
"Kindergartens might reject our children citing other reasons," Chen told the Beijing Times. "The change won't come easy and takes time."
The regulation does not stipulate specific punishments for kindergartens that ignore the rule. By Shan Juan (China Daily) Updated: 2009-08-01 09:15