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Hepatitis B Vaccine

By

Margot L. Savoy

, MD, MPH, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Last full review/revision Aug 2019| Content last modified Aug 2019
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NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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The hepatitis B vaccine helps protect against hepatitis B and its complications (chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer). Generally, hepatitis B is more serious than hepatitis A and is occasionally fatal. Symptoms can be mild or severe. They include decreased appetite, nausea, and fatigue. In 5 to 10% of people, hepatitis B becomes chronic and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Hepatitis B vaccine information statement.

Administration

The hepatitis B vaccine is typically given in a series of three injections into a muscle. However, if people who have been vaccinated are exposed to the virus, a doctor measures their antibody levels against hepatitis B. If the antibody levels are low, they may need another injection of hepatitis B vaccine.

As a part of routine childhood vaccination, all children are typically given three doses: at birth, at age 1 to 2 months, and at 6 to 18 months.

Vaccination is also recommended for any adult who wishes protection from hepatitis B and all unvaccinated adults who are at increased risk of getting hepatitis B, such as the following:

  • Health care workers

  • Travelers to areas where the disease is common

  • People with a chronic liver disorder or blood clotting disorder

  • People with kidney failure, including those who need dialysis

  • People who inject illegal drugs

  • People who have several sex partners

  • People who need to be evaluated or treated for a sexually transmitted disease

  • Men who have sex with men

  • Sex partners and household contacts of people known to be carriers of hepatitis B

  • People with HIV infection

  • People who are under 60 and have diabetes

  • People who are given care in places where there are people at high risk of hepatitis B (such as places where people with sexually transmitted diseases are treated, drug-abuse treatment and prevention services, hemodialysis centers, institutions for developmentally disabled people, correctional facilities, health care settings for injection drug users, men who have sex with men, and HIV testing and treatment)

If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?).

Side Effects

Occasionally, the injection site becomes sore, and a mild fever develops.

People with a history of severe allergic reaction to baker’s yeast, which is used in the production of the hepatitis B vaccine, should not be given the vaccine.

More Information

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version

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