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.