What Is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. This virus attacks the liver and cause:
The virus is spread through the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.
Most of these infections clear up without treatment. Others develop into chronic hepatitis B. This can lead to serious problems and death.
What Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine?
The vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle. It is often given in a series of 3 to 4 shots over 6 months.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
Most newborns have the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) within 24 hours of birth. Two more injections are given at ages 1 to 2 months and 6 to 18 months.
Some types of HBV will need 4 doses.
The vaccine may also be given to children and teens 18 years or younger who did not get it as babies. There is a 2-dose series for children aged 11 to 15 years.
Adults, 18 years or older, should get vaccinated if they are at high risk for hepatitis B. High risk factors include:
- Multiple sexual partners or past sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Being an IV drug user or having a history of injecting drugs
- Having chronic kidney disease with or without dialysis
- Liver disease such as hepatitis C virus infection, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, or alcoholic liver disease
- Having HIV
- Having diabetes if you are younger than 60 years old
- Having a job where you might be exposed to hepatitis-infected blood or body fluids
- Living in an institution or long-term care center
- Living with someone who has chronic hepatitis B infection
- Traveling to areas where there is a high rate of hepatitis B infection
What Are the Risks Associated With the Hepatitis B Vaccine?
All vaccines have some risk. A severe allergic reaction is the most common risk.
Most who have the vaccine will not have problems. Some may have mild problems. This can include soreness where the shot was given, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, or fever.
Acetaminophen is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever after a vaccine. However, this can weaken the vaccine in infants and make it less effective. A doctor can discuss risks and benefits.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
You should not get the vaccine if you:
- Had a life-threatening allergic reaction to baker's yeast or the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine
- Are moderately or severely ill—wait until you recover to get the vaccine
What Other Ways Can Hepatitis B Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
Other methods that may reduce the risk of hepatitis B infection are:
- Practice safe sex. Use protection such as a condom.
- Get a blood test for hepatitis B if you are pregnant.
- Avoid illegal drugs and recreational injections.
- Do not use other people's personal care items that may have blood on them. This includes razors or toothbrushes.
- Consider the risks before getting a tattoo or body piercing.
- Following safety precautions when working at health centers.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
In the event of an outbreak, all at-risk people should be offered the vaccine.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Updated December 27, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Hepatitis B. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-hepatitis-b-virus-hbv-infection. Updated November 15, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Hepatitis B vaccination: Information for Healthcare Providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/hepb/index.html. Updated March 1, 2017. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html. Updated April 21, 2017. Accessed February 13, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 9/18/2020