Merck Manual

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Hepatitis B Vaccine


Margot L. Savoy

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

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2023

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.

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:

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.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

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