Hepatitis B vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B infection. This is a serious disease that damages the liver.
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The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for healthcare workers, people who live with someone with hepatitis B, and others at higher risk. The hepatitis B virus can damage liver cells. Immunization is also recommended for all infants and unvaccinated adolescents.
Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus.
The hepatitis B vaccine is called HepB for short. It is made from smaller pieces of the whole hepatitis virus. After getting the vaccine, the body learns to attack the hepatitis B virus if the person is exposed to it. As a result, it is unlikely the person will get sick with hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis B is also known as serum hepatitis and is spread through blood and sexual contact. It is seen with increased frequency among intravenous drug users who share needles and among the homosexual population. This photograph is an electronmicroscopic image of hepatitis B virus particles. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Hepatitis B vaccine does not protect against other types of hepatitis. Currently there is one other hepatitis vaccine, hepatitis A (HepA). So a person needs to receive HepA to be protected against hepatitis A infection.
HepB is one of the recommended childhood vaccines. HepB is given to children as a series of three shots (doses). One dose is given at each of the following ages:
- At birth, before leaving the hospital. If the baby's mother carries the hepatitis B virus, the baby receives the first dose right after delivery.
- Between 1 and 2 months.
- 6 months.
Some infants may receive four doses when hepatitis B vaccine is combined with other vaccines and given as a single injection.
Children and Teens
Children and teens who have not been vaccinated should begin the hepatitis B vaccine series at the earliest possible date.
Adults who have not already received HepB should get the vaccine series if they:
- Are health care workers
- Are household contacts or sexual partners of persons known to be infected with hepatitis B
- Are men who have sex with other men
- Are on dialysis
- Have diabetes
- Have end-stage kidney disease, chronic liver disease, or HIV infection
- Have multiple sexual partners
- Use recreational, injectable drugs
- Will be having an organ transplant, bone marrow transplant, or chemotherapy
HepB can be received as a vaccine by itself. Or it can be received as a combined vaccine that protects against other diseases. Your health care provider can tell you if this vaccine is right for you or your child.
- Persons who are allergic to yeast.
- Persons who received a dose of the vaccine and developed a serious allergy from it.
- Persons who are ill with something more severe than a cold or have a fever should reschedule their vaccination until after they are recovered.
Most persons who get HepB have no side effects. Others may have minor problems, such as soreness and redness at the injection site or a mild fever. Serious problems are rare and are mainly due to allergic reactions to a part of the vaccine.
There is no proof that the hepatitis B vaccine is linked to the development of autism.
No vaccine works all of the time. It is still possible, though unlikely, to get hepatitis B infection even after receiving all doses (shots) of HepB.
- You are not sure if a person should get the hepatitis vaccine
- Mild or serious symptoms appear after receiving the vaccine
- You have any questions or concerns about the vaccine