The hepatitis B vaccine helps protect against hepatitis B Hepatitis B, Acute Acute hepatitis B is inflammation of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus and that lasts from a few weeks up to 6 months. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood or other... read more and its complications (chronic hepatitis Hepatitis B, Chronic Chronic hepatitis B is inflammation of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus and that has lasted more than 6 months. Most people with chronic hepatitis B have no symptoms, but some... read more , cirrhosis Cirrhosis of the Liver Cirrhosis is the widespread distortion of the liver's internal structure that occurs when a large amount of normal liver tissue is permanently replaced with nonfunctioning scar tissue. The scar... read more , and liver cancer Hepatocellular Carcinoma Hepatocellular carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the liver cells and is the most common of the primary liver cancers. Having hepatitis B or hepatitis C or fatty liver disease, or drinking... read more ).
Generally, hepatitis B is more serious than hepatitis A Hepatitis A Acute hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis A virus and that lasts less than 6 months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when people ingest something that has... read more 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.
(See also Overview of Immunization Overview of Immunization Immunization (vaccination) helps the body defend itself against diseases caused by certain bacteria or viruses. Immunity (the ability of the body to defend itself against diseases caused by... read more .)
Administration of Hepatitis B Vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine is typically given in a series of two or 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 vaccinations Childhood Vaccinations Vaccination protects children against many infectious diseases. Vaccines contain either noninfectious components of bacteria or viruses or whole forms of these organisms that have been weakened... read more , all children are typically given three doses: at birth, at age 1 to 2 months, and at 6 to 18 months. Infants who did not receive a dose at birth should begin the series as soon as possible. (See CDC: Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule by Age).
A vaccine that combines hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine is also available. This vaccine is given as a series of three or four doses in people 18 years of age and older.
The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all people up to age 59 who were not previously vaccinated.
The vaccine is also recommended for all unvaccinated adults 60 years of age and older who have risk factors for hepatitis B, including the following:
People who work in professions where they may be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious body fluids, such as health care, custodial, or public safety workers
People who travel to areas where the infection is common
People with a chronic liver disorder (such as hepatitis C, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease, and autoimmune hepatitis) or high levels of certain liver enzymes in their blood
People who inject illicit drugs
People who have had more than one sex partner within the past 6 months
People who need to be evaluated or treated for a sexually transmitted infection Overview of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Sexually transmitted infection (STI) refers to an infection that is passed through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or other body fluids during oral, anal, or genital sex with an infected partner... read more
Men who have sex with men
Sex partners and household contacts of people known to be carriers of hepatitis B
People who have diabetes Diabetes Mellitus (DM) Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough or respond normally to insulin, causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to be abnormally high. Symptoms of diabetes may... read more (at the discretion of the doctor providing treatment)
People who are employed by or are given care in places where there are people at high risk of hepatitis B (such as places where people with sexually transmitted infections are treated and places where drug-abuse treatment and prevention services, services for injection drug users, and services for men who have sex with men are provided; hemodialysis centers, institutions for developmentally disabled people, correctional facilities, and HIV testing and treatment facilities)
Hepatitis B vaccine may also be given to adults 60 years of age and older who do not have risk factors if they would like protection from hepatitis B.
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 of Hepatitis B Vaccine
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.
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