Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a liver disease that can cause mild illness lasting a few weeks, or it can 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 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
Hepatitis B vaccine is usually given as 2, 3, or 4 shots. Hepatitis B vaccine is 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.
Three doses are generally required to complete the hepatitis B vaccine series.
1st Shot – At any given time, but newborns should receive this dose in the delivery room
2nd Shot – At least one month (or 28 days) after the 1st shot
3rd Shot – At least 4 months (16 weeks) after the 1st shot (and at least 2 months after the 2nd shot).
You do not need to restart the hepatitis B vaccine series if you miss any of the shots. For example, if you start the vaccine series and stop, then get the 2nd shot when you can and make sure to get the 3rd shot at least two months later. Or, if you get the first two doses of vaccine and miss the third dose, then just schedule the last shot when you can. To be certain that you are protected against hepatitis B, ask for a simple blood test to check your “antibody titers” that will confirm whether the vaccination was successful.
More than 1 billion doses of the hepatitis B vaccine have been given worldwide and it is considered one of the safest and most effective vaccines ever made. Numerous studies looking at the vaccine’s safety have been conducted by the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many different medical societies.
No evidence has been found that the hepatitis B vaccine causes sudden infant deaths (SIDs), autism, multiple sclerosis, or other neurological disorders.
Common side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine may include soreness, swelling and redness at the injection site. The vaccine may not be recommended for those with documented yeast allergies or a history of an adverse reaction to the vaccine.