How Safe Is The Hepatitis B Vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine is totally safe for most people. Most babies, kids, and adults have no problems at all when they get the vaccine. In fact, more than 100 million people in the U.S. have gotten the hepatitis B vaccine.
Like all medicines, the hepatitis B vaccine may have some mild side effects: soreness, change in skin color, swelling, or itching around where you get the shot, or a slight fever. But these things arent serious and usually go away pretty quickly. Theres an extremely small risk of having an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
If you get dizzy, feel your heart beating really fast, have a high fever, feel weak, break out in hives, or have trouble breathing, get medical help right away. But again, the risk of having an allergy is super small.
You CANT get hepatitis from the hepatitis vaccine.
For Adults And Children
This vaccine schedule involves three doses within 2 months, followed by a booster dose at 1 year.
The initial accelerated doses provide immediate protection from HBV, and the booster dose helps provide long-term protection.
Below is the accelerated vaccination schedule approved for both adults and children:
|2 months after the first dose||1 year after the first dose|
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
Additional Resource Links:
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How Is This Vaccine Given
This vaccine is given as an injection into a muscle. You will receive this injection in a doctor’s office or other clinic setting.
The hepatitis A and B vaccine is given in a series of 3 shots. The booster shots are given 1 month and 6 months after the first shot.
If you have a high risk of hepatitis infection, you may be given 3 shots within 30 days, and a fourth shot 12 months after the first.
Your individual booster schedule may be different from these guidelines. Follow your doctor’s instructions or the schedule recommended by the health department of the state you live in.
Do The Benefits Of The Hepatitis B Vaccine Outweigh Its Risks
Every year in the United States about 2,000 people die following an overwhelming hepatitis B virus infection. In addition, every year about 22,000 people are infected with hepatitis B. Some of them will remain chronically infected, putting them at high risk of the long-term consequences of hepatitis B virus infection: cirrhosis and liver cancer. In fact, with the exception of influenza and COVID-19 viruses, hepatitis B virus causes more severe disease and death in the United States than any other vaccine-preventable disease. On the other hand, the hepatitis B vaccine is an extremely rare cause of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. To date, no one has died from this reaction, but it is theoretically possible that this could occur.
Because hepatitis B virus is a common cause of severe disease and death in the United States, and because the hepatitis B vaccine does not cause permanent damage or death, the benefits of the hepatitis B vaccine clearly outweigh its risks.
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General Information About Vaccination Outside The Us
In developing countries, the pentavalent vaccine, a combination 5-in-one vaccine that protects against five diseases, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Hib and hepatitis B, may be given to babies more than 6 weeks of age, and can be given up to 1 year of age. The first dose is given at 6 weeks, and the second and third doses are given at 10 and 14 weeks of age. The pentavalent vaccine may be made available free of charge with the support of GAVI, the vaccine alliance. Check the GAVI country hub to see the resources and immunizations that may be available:
For babies born to mothers with hepatitis B, waiting for the first dose of the pentavalent vaccine is too late and will NOT protect the baby from vertical or horizontal transmission of hepatitis B. Babies born to a mother with hepatitis B have a greater than 90% chance of developing chronic hepatitis B if they are not properly treated at birth.
WHO recommends the hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth for ALL babies. Plan ahead and inquire about the availability and cost of the monovalent , birth dose of the vaccine, as it is not a GAVI provided immunization. This is particularly important to women who are positive for hepatitis B.
If you are unsure of your hepatitis B status, please be sure your doctor tests you for hepatitis B!
*WHO does not recommend a birth dose of HBIG, which may not be available in all countries. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.
Who Should Get Immunised Against Hepatitis B
Anyone who wants to protect themselves against hepatitis B can talk to their doctor about getting immunised.
Hepatitis B immunisation is recommended for:
People under 20 years old, refugees and other humanitarian entrants of any age, can get hepatitis B vaccines for free under the NIP. This is if they did not receive the vaccines in childhood. This is called catch-up vaccination.
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British Columbia Specific Information
Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver. It can cause serious disease, including permanent liver damage , and is also the main cause of liver cancer.
The hepatitis B vaccine provides immunity for at least 10 years and likely for a lifetime when completing the full series. There are currently no recommendations for a healthy person to receive a booster for this vaccine if they have completed the full series.
For more information on hepatitis B and the hepatitis B vaccine, visit our Hepatitis page.
You may also call 8-1-1 to speak to a registered nurse or pharmacist. Our nurses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and our pharmacists are available every night from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Immunisation Against Hepatitis B For People At Risk
In Victoria free hepatitis B vaccine is provided for people who are at increased risk, including:
- Men who have sex with men.
- People living with HIV.
- People living with hepatitis C.
- People no longer in a custodial setting who commenced, but did not complete, a free vaccine course while in custody.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- People born in priority hepatitis B endemic countries who arrived in Australia in the last 10 years priority countries include China, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Thailand, South Korea, Myanmar , Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Cambodia.
- Vulnerable citizens people who have experienced hardship that prevented them from accessing the vaccine earlier. Vulnerable citizens are vaccinated based on an individual assessment by an immunisation provider.
Immunisation is also recommended, but not free, for people who are at increased risk including:
If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis B, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor can give you treatment that, in some instances, can greatly reduce your risk of infection with hepatitis B.
Remember that being immunised against hepatitis B does not protect you against HIV, hepatitis C or other diseases spread by blood or bodily fluids. It is important that you take precautions to make sure you are not exposed to these diseases.
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If I Already Have Hepatitis B Can The Vaccine Treat It
No. The hepatitis vaccine prevents hepatitis, but doesnt cure it if you already have it. If you have hepatitis B, there are other treatment options.
However, if you recently got exposed to the hepatitis B virus and you havent had the vaccine yet, tell your doctor right away. The vaccine and possibly other treatment can reduce your chances of getting hepatitis B if you get it within 2 weeks after you came into contact with the virus. The sooner you seek care after being exposed to hepatitis B, the better, so try to get there right away.
Hepatitis B Vaccine Side Effects
The hepatitis B vaccine is considered a very safe and effective vaccine. Its made with an inactivated virus, so most types of the vaccine are even safe for pregnant people.
The hepatitis B vaccine may cause some mild side effects. The most common symptom is redness, swelling, or soreness where the injection was given. Some people also experience headache or fever. These effects usually last a day or two .
Rarely, some people have a serious and potentially life threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine. Call 911 or get to a hospital immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after vaccination:
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Vaccines For Hepatitis A And B
Our immune system battles foreign invaders every day, such as when we get a cold virus. When this happens, we develop immunity to that specific virus. This means that our body will fight off the virus if it is ever exposed to it again.
The same protection happens with vaccines. However, the benefit of a vaccination is that you don’t have to go through being sick to enable your body to fight off disease.
Gregory Poland, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, explains that hepatitis vaccinations contain a small amount of the inactive virus. When you get a dose of the vaccine, he says, your immune cells respond by developing immunity against the virus. This immunity lasts over a long period of time.
“So if I get these two doses of hepatitis A vaccine, and then I get exposed 30 years from now, my body will remember that immunity to the vaccine and rapidly start producing antibodies again,” says Poland.
Due to the way hepatitis vaccinations are developed, it is impossible to contract the virus from the vaccine itself, according to Poland.
The hepatitis A vaccine is usually given in two shots and the hepatitis B vaccine is administered as a series of three shots. The most common side effects are redness, pain, and tenderness where the shots are given.
To get long-term protection from these viruses, it’s important to receive all the shots as scheduled. However, if you received one shot and never went back for the others, it’s not too late to catch up.
How Is Hepatitis B Passed On
The hepatitis B virus is passed from person to person in one of these ways:
- Blood-to-blood contact. For example, drug users sharing needles or other equipment which may be contaminated with infected blood. Healthcare workers can be infected through accidental needlestick injuries.
- Having unprotected sex with an infected person.
- An infected mother passing it to her baby.
- A human bite from an infected person. This is very rare.
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A Push For Widespread Vaccination
Youngs plea came as public health officials were bemoaning stubbornly low hepatitis B vaccination rates. In the 5 years since the ACIP had recommended that gay men, injection drug users, health care workers, and select immigrants be vaccinated against the infection, hepatitis B prevalence had not decreased but rather increased, with rates particularly high among young adults.35 Incrementally, federal recommendations evolved in response. In 1988, the ACIP recommended that all pregnant women be tested for hepatitis B, and, if positive, their infants vaccinated within 12 h of birth to prevent transmission to the next generation.36 When disease incidence persisted at high rates, the ACIP altered its strategy again, recommending universal infant vaccination against hepatitis B in 1991.37 Health officials acknowledged that the new strategy was necessary because vaccinating persons engaged in high-risk behaviors, life-styles or occupationshas not been feasible and because many infected people had no identifiable source for their infections.38
You Can Have It And Not Know It
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus . HBV is far more infectious than HIV and can be prevented by a vaccine. People who have not been vaccinated may be at risk of getting infected.
About 95 percent of adults will recover within 6 months of becoming infected and as a result will develop lifelong protection against it. The remaining 5 percent are unable to clear the virus and will become chronically infected. Chronic hepatitis B infection is treatable.
It is estimated that less than 1 percent of Canada’s population is infected with either acute or chronic HBV. People who are infected before the age of 7 are at a higher risk of developing chronic infection. In 2011, the overall reported rate of acute hepatitis B infection in Canada was 0.6 reported cases per 100,000 people living in Canada.
Why is hepatitis B a health concern?
Many people infected with HBV do not know they have the virus because symptoms can take two to six months to appear and only about 50 percent of people develop symptoms. During this time, they can spread the infection to others. You may not know you have this infection until damage has already been done to your liver. Potential complications from chronic HBV infection include cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer and premature death.
Why do I need my liver?
How is hepatitis B spread?
HBV is spread through contact with infected blood and body fluids including semen and vaginal fluid.
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Why Do You Need A Hepatitis B Shot
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that cant be transferred person-to-person unless you have contact with an infected persons bodily fluids. Annual infection rates of HBV are going down in the United States thanks to vaccines. So you might be wondering if you or your child needs a shot to protect against hepatitis B.
Transmission Symptoms And Treatment
How is HBV transmitted?
HBV is transmitted through activities that involve percutaneous or mucosal contact with infectious blood or body fluids , including
- sex with a partner who has HBV infection
- injection drug use that involves sharing needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment
- birth to a person who has HBV infection
- contact with blood from or open sores on a person who has HBV infection
- exposures to needle sticks or sharp instruments and
- sharing certain items with a person who has HBV infection that can break the skin or mucous membranes , potentially resulting in exposure to blood.
How long does HBV survive outside the body?
HBV can survive outside the body and remains infectious for at least 7 days .
What should be used to clean environmental surfaces potentially contaminated with HBV?
Any blood spills should be disinfected using a 1:10 dilution of one part household bleach to 9 parts water. Gloves should be worn when cleaning up any blood spills.
Who is at risk for HBV infection?
The following populations are at increased risk for becoming infected with HBV:
- Infants born to people with HBV infection
- Sex partners of people with HBV infection
- Men who have sex with men
- People who inject drugs
- Household contacts or sexual partners of known people with chronic HBV infection
- Health care and public safety workers at risk for occupational exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
- Patients on hemodialysis
Who should be screened for HBV?
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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.
Which Adults Should Be Vaccinated Against Hepatitis B
According to CDC recommendations, adults in the following groups are recommended to receive hepatitis B vaccine:
- All people age 18 years and younger.
- Anyone 19 years and older who wants to be protected from hepatitis B.
People at risk for infection by sexual exposure
- Sex partners of people who are hepatitis B surface antigen -positive.
- Sexually active people who are not in long-term, mutually monogamous relationships.
- People seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease.
- Men who have sex with men.
People at risk for infection by percutaneous or permucosal exposure to blood or body fluids
- Current or recent illegal injection drug users.
- Household contacts of people who are HBsAg-positive.
- Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally challenged people.
- Healthcare and public safety workers with reasonably anticipated risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids.
- People with end-stage renal disease, including predialysis, hemo-, peritoneal- and home-dialysis patients.
- International travelers to regions with intermediate or high levels of endemic HBV infection.
- People with chronic liver disease.
- People with HIV infection.
- People with diabetes who are age 19 through 59 years. For those age 60 and older, clinicians should make a determination of need for
- vaccination based on their patients’ situation.
In a future issue, we will review the various hepatitis B serologic tests, who needs testing, and when they need it .
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