Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a liver disease that can cause mild illness lasting a few weeks or lead to a serious, lifelong illness. 

Acute hepatitis B infection is a short-term illness that can lead to fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements), and pain in the muscles, joints, and stomach. 

Chronic hepatitis B infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis B virus remains in a person's body. Most people who go on to develop chronic hepatitis B do not have symptoms, but it is still very serious and can lead to liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and death. Chronically-infected people can spread the hepatitis B virus to others, even if they do not feel or look sick themselves. 

Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. People can become infected through: 

  • Birth (if a mother has hepatitis B, her baby can become infected) 
  • Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person 
  • Contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person 
  • Sex with an infected partner 
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment 
  • Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments 

Most people who are vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine are immune for life. 

Hepatitis B vaccine 

Hepatitis B vaccine is usually given as 2, 3, or 4 shots. Infants should get their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and will usually complete the series at six months of age (sometimes it will take longer than six months to complete the series). Children and adolescents who are younger than 19 years of age who have not yet gotten the vaccine should also be vaccinated. 

Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for certain unvaccinated adults: 

  • People whose sex partners have hepatitis B 
  • Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term monogamous relationship 
  • Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease 
  • Men who have sexual contact with other men 
  • People who share needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment 
  • People who have household contact with someone infected with the hepatitis B virus 
  • Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or body fluids 
  • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons 
  • Persons in correctional facilities 
  • Victims of sexual assault or abuse 
  • Travelers to regions with increased rates of hepatitis B 
  • People with chronic liver disease, kidney disease, HIV infection, infection with hepatitis C, or diabetes 
  • Anyone who wants to be protected from hepatitis B 

Hepatitis B vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Talk with your health care provider 

Tell your vaccine provider if the person is getting the vaccine has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine or has any severe, life-threatening allergies. In some cases, your health care provider may decide to postpone hepatitis B vaccination to a future visit. 

People with minor illnesses, such as a cold may be vaccinated. People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting the hepatitis B vaccine. Your health care provider can give you more information.  

Risks of a vaccine reaction 

Soreness where the shot is given or fever can happen after the hepatitis B vaccine. People sometimes faint after medical procedures, including vaccination. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy or have vision changes or ringing in the ears. There is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death as with any medicine.  

What if there is a serious problem? 

An allergic reaction could occur after the vaccinated person leaves the clinic. If you see signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness), call 9-1-1 and get the person to the nearest hospital. For other signs that concern you, call your health care provider. 

Adverse reactions should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your health care provider will usually file this report, or you can do it yourself. Visit the VAERS website at www.vaers.hhs.gov or call 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions, and VAERS staff do not give medical advice.  

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program 

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who certain vaccines may have injured. Visit the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation or call 1-800-338-2382 to learn about the program and about filing a claim. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.