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Driving force behind hepatitis B research

It is largely thanks to Dr Christopher Moyes that New Zealand children can be protected from hepatitis B. 

Chris was one of the driving forces behind the 1984 Kawerau Prevalence Study, which saw 93 percent of the town screened for hepatitis B (HBV) and showed that Maori and European children had among the highest rates of hepatitis B in the world.   

Convinced vaccination of all infants at birth would eventually eradicate HBV from NZ, Chris played a key role in building government awareness of the virus in NZ. He and colleagues conducted several vaccination studies in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, which confirmed the safety and efficacy of the new HBV vaccines. He helped organise vaccine meetings in Whakatane that helped convince the Ministry of Health to introduce universal hepatitis B immunisation programme for children. This programme began in 1988. 

The adult medicine and paediatric specialist started his career in 1970 as the house officer for medicine and surgery at Nottingham General Hospital. Various roles in the United Kingdom followed before he came to New Zealand in 1979 and began work as a paediatrician at Whakatane Hospital. 

Chris developed an interest in liver health after helping a colleague write a hepatitis B paper for the NZ Medical Journal, and this led to research into the epidemiology of hepatitis B. Since then he has conducted extensive research into the natural history and prevention of hepatitis B (HBV). Over the past 40 years he has made a huge contribution to the control of HBV in New Zealand and his research has changed the NZ healthcare field’s understanding of hepatitis B. 

In the 1980s Chris also highlighted the estimated 90,000 adults living in New Zealand with chronic HBV, most of whom are unaware of their condition. He helped lobby the government to fund a national HBV screening programme for Asian, Pacific Island and Maori people born before neonatal vaccination began.    

As the Hepatitis Foundation’s medical director, Chris has supported nearly 30,000 patients, including referring people with life-threatening complications to secondary care. He is highly regarded by colleagues, patients and fellow medical professionals.   

Chris has always been focused on improving health outcome for Māori people with hepatitis B and has worked extensively with local kaumatua to improve access to testing, monitoring and treatment in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.  


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