Hepatitis B vaccine
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.
Vaccine - hepatitis B; Immunization - hepatitis B
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.
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
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule -- United States, 2012. MMWR 2012;61(4).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years -- United States, 2012, MMWR 2012;61(05):1-4.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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