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Hepatitis B vaccine

Definition

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, a serious disease that damages the liver. This vaccine is one of the recommended childhood immunizations, but many adults also need to be vaccinated.

Alternative Names

Vaccine - hepatitis B; Immunization - hepatitis B

Information

The hepatitis B vaccine is made from the inactivated (dead) hepatitis B virus. After you get a hepatitis B vaccine, your body learns to attack the hepatitis B virus if you are exposed to it. This means you are very unlikely to get sick with hepatitis B.

Because no vaccine is 100% effective, it is still possible to get hepatitis B, even after you have been completely vaccinated.

WHO SHOULD GET THIS VACCINE

The hepatitis B vaccine is given to children as a series of three injections (shots).

  • The first shot is given to infants before leaving the hospital. If the baby's mother carries the hepatitis B virus, the baby receives the first vaccine shortly after birth.
  • The second shot is given between 1 and 2 months of age.
  • The third shot is given at 6 months of age.

Infants who do not get the first shot until 4 to 8 weeks will get the second shot at 4 months and the third shot at 6 to 16 months. Either way, the second and third shots are given along with other routine childhood immunizations.

Adolescents who have not been vaccinated should begin the three-shot hepatitis B vaccine series at the earliest possible date.

Adults or children who have not already received the vaccine 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 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

Adults can receive the hepatitis B vaccine only, or a vaccine called Twinrix that protects against both hepatitis A and B. Either series is given in 3 doses.

RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS

Most infants who receive the hepatitis B vaccine 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.

CONSIDERATIONS

If the child is ill with something more serious than a cold, the hepatitis B vaccine may be delayed.

Children who have had a severe allergic reaction to baker's yeast should not receive this vaccine.

A child who has a severe allergic reaction after receiving the vaccine should not get another hepatitis B vaccine.

CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF:

  • You are not sure whether your child should get this vaccine
  • Moderate or serious side effects appear after receiving the vaccine
  • You have any questions or concerns

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule -- United States, 2012. 2012;61(4).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years -- United States, 2012, 2012;61(05):1-4. 

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.