Hepatitis B Vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine can protect a person against hepatitis B for at least 23 years. Among the people who should get the hepatitis B vaccine are healthcare workers, international travelers, and people with a chronic liver disease.

 The hepatitis B vaccine is given as a series of injections -- a single shot, followed by a second injection one month later, and then a third shot six months later. There are very few side effects associated with the hepatitis B vaccine. There is no risk of getting the disease from receiving the hepatitis B vaccine.

An Overview of the Hepatitis B Vaccine

A vaccine is a drug that you take when you are healthy that keeps you from getting sick. Vaccines teach your body to attack certain viruses, like the hepatitis B virus. Vaccination is the best way to prevent a hepatitis B infection along with its serious consequences, which can include hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer).

 

Candidates for Hepatitis B Vaccination

Anyone 18 years of age or younger should be vaccinated against

the hepatitis B virus. In addition, you may need the hepatitis B vaccine if you over the age of 18 and:

  • Have a chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis C

  • Live in, or were born in, areas where hepatitis B is common

  • Inject drugs

  • Have a sex partner who has hepatitis B or have multiple sex partners

  • Are a man who has sex with other men

  • Share a household with someone who has hepatitis B

  • Work in a high-risk profession, especially if you are in the military or are a healthcare worker, emergency worker, police officer, firefighter, or mortician

  • Are an international traveler

  • Are in prison

  • Receive blood products or are on hemodialysis.

Certain ethnic groups have higher rates of hepatitis B virus infection. You may need the hepatitis B vaccine if you are:

  • African American

  • Latino

  • Native American

  • Haitian

  • Alaskan Native

  • Vietnamese
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Filipino.

      
     Who Should Not Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine? Who Should Wait to Get It?

You should NOT get the hepatitis B vaccine:

  • If you have had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

  • If you have had a severe (life-threatening) allergy to any vaccine component or to baker's yeast (the kind used to make bread). Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.

If you are moderately or severely ill at the time you are scheduled to receive the shot, you should wait until you have recovered before getting the hepatitis B vaccine. If you are ill, ask your doctor or nurse whether you should receive the vaccine. People with a mild illness can usually get it.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant. The safety of the hepatitis B vaccine for pregnant women has not been determined; however, there is no evidence that it is harmful to either pregnant women or their unborn babies. The risk, if any, is thought to be very low.

 

How Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine Given?

For both children and adults, the vaccine should be given as three shots. The vaccine is given as follows: a single shot, followed by a second injection one month later, and then a third shot six months later.

People who are infected with another virus, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or who have problems with their immune system, may need larger doses of the hepatitis B vaccine.

Babies born to infected mothers should get the first shot within 12 hours after birth, followed by a second shot one month later, and the third shot six months later. Babies born to mothers who are not infected with the hepatitis B virus should get the first shot within one to two months after birth, the second shot at least a month later, and the third shot six months later.

Older children, adolescents, or adults can get their first shot anytime. The second shot is given one to two months after the first shot. The third shot is given four to six months after the first shot.

How Long Does the Hepatitis B Vaccine Protect You?

Recent studies show that after receiving the hepatitis B vaccine, you will be protected for at least 23 years.

Booster doses of hepatitis B vaccine are not recommended routinely for people who are not immune compromised. Data show that vaccine-induced anti-HBs levels might decline over time; however, immune memory remains intact indefinitely following immunization. Immune-competent people with declining antibody levels are still protected against clinical illness and chronic disease.

 

Side Effects With the Hepatitis B Vaccine

There are very few side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine. The most common side effects are soreness where you got the shot and mild fever.

You will not get hepatitis B from the vaccine.