Main Menu

Hepatitis B Vaccine

1. What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious infection that affects the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus. In 2009, about 38,000 people became infected with hepatitis B. Each year about 2,000 to 4,000 people die in the United States from cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B can cause a variety of symptoms
Acute (short-term) illness. This can lead to:

Acute illness, with symptoms, is more common among adults. Children who become infected usually do not have symptoms.

Chronic (long-term) infection. Some people go on to develop chronic hepatitis B infection. Most of them do not have symptoms, but the infection is still very serious, and can lead to:

Chronic infection is more common among infants and children than among adults. People who are chronically infected can spread hepatitis B virus to others, even if they don’t look or feel sick. Up to 1.4 million people in the United States may have chronic hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis B virus is easily spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. People can also be infected from contact with a contaminated object, where the virus can live for up to 7 days.

2. Hepatitis B vaccine: Why get vaccinated?

Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B, and the serious consequences of hepatitis B infection, including liver cancer and cirrhosis.

Hepatitis B vaccine may be given by itself or in the same shot with other vaccines.

Routine hepatitis B vaccination was recommended for some U.S. adults and children beginning in 1982, and for all children in 1991. Since 1990, new hepatitis B infections among children and adolescents have dropped by more than 95%—and by 75% in other age groups.

Vaccination gives long-term protection from hepatitis B infection, possibly lifelong.

3. Who should get hepatitis B vaccine and when?

CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Babies normally get 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine:

Some babies might get 4 doses, for example, if a combination vaccine containing hepatitis B is used. (This is a single shot containing several vaccines.) The extra dose is not harmful.

Anyone through 18 years of age who didn’t get the vaccine when they were younger should also be vaccinated.

ADULTS

Adults getting hepatitis B vaccine should get 3 doses—with the second dose given 4 weeks after the first and the third dose 5 months after the second. Your doctor can tell you about other dosing schedules that might be used in certain circumstances.

4. Who should not get hepatitis B vaccine?

Your doctor can give you more information about these precautions.

Note: You might be asked to wait 28 days before donating blood after getting hepatitis B vaccine. This is because the screening test could mistake vaccine in the bloodstream (which is not infectious) for hepatitis B infection.

5. What are the risks from hepatitis B vaccine?

Hepatitis B is a very safe vaccine. Most people do not have any problems with it. The vaccine contains non-infectious material, and cannot cause hepatitis B infection.

Some mild problems have been reported:

Severe problems are extremely rare. Severe allergic reactions are believed to occur about once in 1.1 million doses.
A vaccine, like any medicine, could cause a serious reaction. But the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. More than 100 million people in the United States have been vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine.

6. What if there is a serious reaction?

What should I look for?

Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

What should I do?

VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.

7. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.

Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation.

8. How can I learn more? Ask your doctor.


Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Last updated May 8, 2015.