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Hepatitis B vaccine

Definition

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, a serious disease that damages the liver. The vaccine is one of the recommended childhood immunizations.

Alternative Names

Vaccine - hepatitis B; Immunization - hepatitis B

Information

The vaccine is made from inactivated whole virus of hepatitis B. The inactive virus stimulates your body to produce antibodies to fight the hepatitis B virus.

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.

For infants who do not receive the first shot until 4 to 8 weeks, the second shot is given at 4 months and the third at 6 to 16 months. In either instance, the second and third shots are given along with other routine childhood immunizations.

Adolescents who have not been vaccinated should begin the hepatitis B vaccine series at the earliest possible date.

Adults or children who have not already received the vaccine and should receive the vaccine if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • Have end-stage kidney disease, chronic liver disease, or HIV infection
  • Are on dialysis
  • Will be receiving an organ transplant, a bone marrow transplant, or chemotherapy
  • Household contacts or sexual partners of persons known to be infected with hepatitis B
  • Persons with multiple sexual partners
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • Persons who use recreational, injectable drugs

A vaccine for adults called Twinrix provides protection against both hepatitis A and B. It 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 component of the vaccine.

CONSIDERATIONS

If the child is ill with something more serious than a cold, the hepatitis B vaccine may be delayed.

If the child has a severe allergic reaction to baker's yeast, they should not receive this vaccine.

If severe allergic reaction occurs after receiving the vaccine, no further hepatitis B vaccines should be given to the child.

CALL YOUR PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF:

  • You are not sure if your child should receive this vaccine
  • Moderate or serious side effects appear after receiving the vaccine
  • You have any questions or concerns

References

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Recommended immunization schedules for children and adolescents--United States, 2008. Pediatrics. 2008 Jan;121(1):219-20.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule---United States, 2009. MMWR. January 9, 2009;57(53);Q1-Q4.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years---United States, 2009. MMWR. January 2, 2009;57(51&52);Q1-Q4.


Review Date: 11/9/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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