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Hepatitis B vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B infection. This is a serious disease that damages the liver.

Alternative Names

Vaccine - HepB; Immunization - hepatitis B; Immunization - HepB

Information

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 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.

WHO SHOULD GET THIS VACCINE

Infants

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

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.

WHO SHOULD NOT GET THE VACCINE

  • 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.

RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS

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.

CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF:

  • 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

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years and Adults Aged 19 Years and Older - United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62(Suppl1):1-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine safety and adverse events. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/safety/default.htm. Accessed April 19, 2013.

DeStefano F, Price CS, Weintraub ES. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. J Pediatr. 2013; DOI10.1016/j.peds.2013.02.001.

Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review Committee. Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.

Orenstein WA, Atkinson WL. Immunization. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 17.

Updated: 2/21/2013

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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