What Is Hepatitis B Virus
Hepatitis B virus attacks the liver. Hepatitis B virus infections are known as the “silent epidemic” because many infected people don’t experience symptoms until decades later when they develop hepatitis , cirrhosis , or cancer of the liver . Every year in the United States about 22,000 new hepatitis B infections occur and about 2,000 people die from their infections.
How Is The Hepatitis B Vaccine Given
The hepatitis B vaccine is a recombinant vaccine, which means that it is a fragment of the hepatitis B virus that has been produced in a laboratory. The vaccination for hepatitis B is given as 3 injections over a 6-month period an initial dose, followed by a second dose 1 month later, and a third dose 5months after the second.
If you need hepatitis A vaccination in addition to hepatitis B, you can do these individually or as a combined vaccine that covers both. The combination vaccine is given as 3 injections over a 6-month period an initial dose, followed by a second dose 1 month later, and a third dose 5 months after the second.
If you are not able to get the shots on time, it is not necessary to restart the series, but you should continue from the last dose given.
You will NOT get hepatitis B from the vaccine.
You will be protected for about 13 years. If it has been many years since you received your hepatitis B vaccination, or if you do not know when you were vaccinated, ask your doctor to check to see if you have antibodies against hepatitis B.
Where To Get The Hepatitis B Vaccine
If you are already sure that you need the hepatitis B vaccine, you can book a vaccination appointment at your local pharmacy.
If you would like to discuss your specific requirements with a medical advisor, book a free telephone consultation. A Practio nurse will give an individual assessment of your needs and recommend a suitable vaccination programme.
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Are Hepatitis B Virus Infections Easily Avoided
Large quantities of hepatitis B virus are present in the blood of people with hepatitis B in fact, as many as one billion infectious viruses can be found in a milliliter of blood from an infected individual. Therefore, hepatitis B virus is transmitted in the blood of infected individuals during activities that could result in exposure to blood, such as intravenous drug use, tattooing, or sex with people who are infected. However, it is also possible to catch hepatitis B virus through more casual contact, such as sharing washcloths, toothbrushes or razors. In each of these cases, unseen amounts of blood can contain enough viral particles to cause infection. In addition, because many people who are infected don’t know that they are infected, it is very hard to avoid the chance of getting infected with hepatitis B virus.
Many People With Hbv Dont Know They Have It
HBV infections are becoming less common in the United States. But HBV is still widespread in other parts of the world. Around 257 million people living around the world currently have HBV, and many of them dont know it. Chronic HBV is often asymptomatic, and even when it isnt, it can take months for symptoms to show up.
HBV can be transmitted through sexual contact and the use of IV drugs , and other risk factors. Although rare, there
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Side Effects Of The Hepatitis B Vaccine
Like all medicines and vaccines, the hepatitis B injection can cause side effects, but most people do not experience any at all.
If you do experience hepatitis B vaccine side effects, they are very unlikely to be serious.
One in ten people experience common hepatitis B vaccine side effects. These include:
pins and needles
If you experience dizziness or drowsiness after the hepatitis B vaccine, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery until you feel better.
If your hepatitis B vaccine side effects do not improve, or they become worse, you should talk to your doctor.
Who Should Not Receive The Hepatitis B Vaccine
Talk to your healthcare provider before getting the hepatitis B vaccine if:
- You have had a severe allergic reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine or any of its ingredients in the past.
- You have had an allergic reaction to yeast in the past.
- You are moderately or severely ill.
- You are currently taking immunosuppressive medications.
In addition, pregnant people should not receive the Heplisav-B or PreHevbrio vaccines until more safety information is available.
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Emergency Hepatitis B Vaccination
If you have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus and have not been vaccinated before, you should get immediate medical advice, as you may benefit from having the hepatitis B vaccine.
In some situations, you may also need to have an injection of antibodies, called specific hepatitis B immunoglobulin , along with the hepatitis B vaccine.
HBIG should ideally be given within 48 hours, but you can still have it up to a week after exposure.
Is It Okay To Get An Extra Dose Of Hepatitis B Vaccine
Yes. Although extra doses of vaccine are not recommended, you can think of the extra dose as another chance for the immune system to see the hepatitis B virus. A vaccine is not the only time the immune system will see the virus or bacteria contained in it. People may be exposed to the virus or bacteria at school or the store or when visiting family or friends. An extra dose of vaccine is like one more exposure, except the difference is that the virus or bacteria in any vaccine has been made safe, so it wont make you ill.
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Who Should Get The Vaccine
The Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants and children aged between 0 and 18. In the case of infants, it is recommended to take the vaccine at birth, while still in hospital. In cases where the vaccine was omitted at birth, its important to complete the 3-shot series as soon as possible. Adolescents and adults who havent received the vaccine on time are also recommended to complete the vaccination as soon as they can.
Members of the following at-risk groups should take special care to get vaccinated: healthcare workers, people in treatment for another STD, the partners and household members of individuals with HIV/AIDS, prison inmates, intravenous drug users , sexually active people who are not in exclusive relationships, men who engage in sex with other men, residents and staff of homes and facilities that care for the developmentally challenged, and people with serious kidney diseases .
Some US populations have a substantially higher rate of HBV infections. This includes Pacific Islanders, Alaska Natives, as well as immigrants and refugees from endangered territories and countries. People who belong to these endangered groups are highly advised to take the vaccine.
Who Should Receive The Hepatitis B Vaccine
Vaccination is the most reliable way to prevent getting hepatitis B or developing serious related medical complications.
The CDCs Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that people in all age groups get the hepatitis B vaccine, including:
- All infants within 24 hours after birth
- Children and teens who have not previously been vaccinated against hepatitis B
- Adults ages 19 to 59
- Adults ages 60 and older with at least one risk factor for hepatitis B
Adults over 60 who are not at risk of developing hepatitis B can also receive the HepB vaccine if they choose.
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Persons New To Canada
Health care providers who see persons newly arrived in Canada should review the immunization status and update immunization for these individuals, as necessary. In many countries outside of Canada, HB vaccine is in limited use.
All persons from a country that is endemic for HB should be assessed and vaccinated against HB if not immune and not infected. Individuals born in developing countries are more likely to be carriers of HB, necessitating vaccination of their sexual and household contacts based on review of their serologic test results. HB vaccine is recommended for all household contacts whose families have immigrated to Canada from areas in which there is a high prevalence of HB and who may be exposed to HB carriers through their extended families or when visiting their country of origin.
Children adopted from countries in which there is a high prevalence of HB infection should be screened for HBsAg and, if positive, household or close contacts in the adopting family should be immunized before adoption or as soon as possible thereafter. Adults going to pick-up children from these countries should be vaccinated before departure. Refer to Immunization of Persons New to Canada in Part 3 for additional information.
Hepatitis B Vaccine Side Effects
Most people only experience mild, short-term side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine. Common side effects include:
- Pain, redness, or swelling at the site of injection
Severe allergic reactions to the hepatitis B vaccine are very rare. If you have symptoms of an allergic reaction shortly after getting the HepB vaccinesuch as difficulty breathing, facial swelling, or hivesseek medical help immediately.
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective for most people. However, there are certain people who should not get the HepB vaccine, including:
- People who are moderately or severely ill at the time of vaccination
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction to yeast
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction to a hepatitis B vaccine in the past
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For Adults At High Risk Of Exposure
Adults who have not received the hepatitis B vaccine series should be immunized when they have an increased risk of exposure. Job, travel, health condition, or lifestyle all may increase a person’s risk of contracting hepatitis B.
People who live or work where there is risk of exposure include:
- Health care and public safety workers who are likely to be exposed to blood or blood products.
- Clients and staff of institutions or residential settings with known or potential HBV carriers.
- People planning extended travel to China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and other areas where hepatitis B infection is high.
People who have health conditions that put them at high risk for exposure or a severe infection include:
- People who have a severe kidney disease that requires them to have their blood filtered through a machine .
- People who have chronic liver disease.
- People who have hemophilia and other conditions in which they need to have blood products on an ongoing basis.
- People who had a stem cell transplant.
People whose lifestyle puts them at high risk for exposure include:
- People who inject illegal drugs.
- Men who have sex with men.
- People who have had more than one sex partner in the past 6 months or who have a history of sexually transmitted infection.
- Household contacts and sex partners of hepatitis B carriers.
- Prison inmates.
What Is In The Hepatitis B Vaccine
Vaccines are given by a course of three injections, usually as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine scheme.
Although there are different types of vaccines, they usually contain one of the proteins from the surface of the hepatitis B virus thats then inserted in to the genetic code into yeast cells which stops the risk of viral DNA getting into the final product.
They also contain small amounts of sodium chloride and aluminium, and can contain yeast and formaldehyde.
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Side Effects Of Hepatitis B Vaccines
Immunisations containing components to protect against hepatitis B are effective and safe, although all medication can have unwanted side effects.
Side effects from the vaccine are uncommon and usually mild, but may include:
- Localised pain, redness and swelling at the injection site.
- Low-grade temperature .
- In children being unsettled, irritable, tearful, generally unhappy, drowsy and tired.
- Occasionally, an injection-site lump that may last many weeks, but for which treatment is not needed.
International Hepatitis B Vaccine Schedules
*Please note that the first dose should be given as soon as possible. Additional doses require minimum time intervals between doses in order for the vaccine to be effective.
The hepatitis B vaccine is an injection that is generally given in the arm and as a three-dose series. The World Health Organization recommends a 0, 1, and 6-month vaccine schedule, though schedules may vary based on a countrys national immunization program. Completing the hepatitis B vaccine series, preferably beginning at birth, will ensure protection against hepatitis B, hepatitis delta and lower the lifetime risk of liver cancer. Greater than 90% of babies and up to 50% of young children who are not vaccinated and are infected with hepatitis B will have lifelong infection, which makes the birth dose essential to their protection. Please note that the vaccine brand name, manufacturer and associated schedules for adults, children and infants may be unique to different countries, though there is a list of WHO prequalified vaccines.
3-Dose Vaccine Series for Infants
The World Health Organization recommends all infants receive the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth and to complete the vaccine series with additional shots at 1 month and 6 months of age. Beginning the hepatitis B vaccine at birth will ensure protection against hepatitis B for life.
3-Dose Vaccine Series for Children and Adults
4-Dose Combination Vaccine Series for Infants
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Babies And Children Can Develop Chronic Hbv
You may be wondering why the recommendations for the HBV vaccine start on the first day of life.
Adults who contract HBV will likely not experience long-term complications from hepatitis B. But the same is not the case for babies. As many as of babies who contract an HBV infection at birth from their mothers become chronically infected with HBV.
Children between the ages of 1 and 5 who get an HBV infection have a 25 percent of people who become chronically infected during childhood will develop liver cancer or cirrhosis. Thats why pediatricians want children to have immunity from HBV from the earliest possible age. Many babies and children exposed to HBV receive post-exposure prophylaxis, which decreases chance of infection.
If youre pregnant, youll most likely have a blood test to see if youre positive for hepatitis B. This allows doctors to find out if theres a chance that you could pass on the virus. These tests are highly sensitive and have a good accuracy rate, but they arent perfect. Additionally, a pregnant person may become infected between the time of the test and giving birth. The first dose of the vaccine given at birth lowers the risk of a newborn baby contracting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B Vaccination In Pregnancy
Hepatitis B infection in pregnant women may result in severe disease for the mother and chronic infection for the baby.
This is why the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for pregnant women who are in a high-risk category.
Theres no evidence of any risk from vaccinating pregnant or breastfeeding women against hepatitis B.
And, as its an inactivated vaccine, the risk to the unborn baby is likely to be negligible .
Immunisation Against Hepatitis B For Children
Vaccination is the best protection against hepatitis B infection and is recommended for all infants and young children, adolescents and those in high-risk groups. Vaccination can be with a vaccine against hepatitis B alone or with a combination vaccine.
Protection against hepatitis B is available free of charge under the National Immunisation Program Schedule.
In Victoria, vaccination against hepatitis B is free for all babies and children including:
- Babies at birth vaccinate with hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth.
- Babies at 2, 4 and 6 months immunisation in the form of a diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine .
- Premature babies at 12 months premature babies born under 32 weeks gestation or under 2,000g birth weight receive a single booster dose.
- Children up to and including 20 years of age.
What To Think About
If you are exposed to HBV before you have received all three shots in the vaccination series, a dose of hepatitis B immune globulin usually will prevent infection until the vaccine takes effect.
If you have already had hepatitis B and have developed protective antibodies to the virus, you do not need the vaccine because you have lifetime protection against the infection. If you are not sure whether you have had hepatitis B, you can be tested, or you can be vaccinated without testing. The vaccine is not harmful for you if you are already immune.
If you have chronic HBV infection, the vaccine will be ineffective, although it is not harmful.
The vaccine is safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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Who Should Receive Hepatitis B Vaccination
- All newborns before hospital discharge. Infants born to hepatitis B-positive women need hepatitis B vaccine and HBIG within 12 hours of birth.
- All children and adolescents not previously vaccinated.
- Children born in the U.S. to individuals born in a country with high hepatitis B endemicity.
- All individuals at risk of hepatitis B infection:
- Sex partners of hepatitis B-positive persons
- Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship
- Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually-transmitted disease
- Men who have sex with men
- Persons who inject drugs
- Household contacts of hepatitis B-positive persons
- Persons born in countries where hepatitis B infection is endemic should be tested and vaccinated if susceptible
- International travelers to regions with high or intermediate rates of endemic hepatitis B infection
- Health care and public safety workers that may be exposed to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
- Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons, corrections facilities, and other facilities that serve adults at risk for hepatitis B infection
- Persons with end-stage renal disease, including pre-dialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
- Persons with chronic liver disease
- Persons to age 60 years with diabetes
- Persons with HIV infection
- All other persons seeking protection from hepatitis B infection.