Hepatitis B vaccine - what you need to know
All content below is taken in its entirety from the CDC Hepatitis B Vaccine Information Statement (VIS): www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hep-b.html.
1. Why get vaccinated?
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 pregnant person has hepatitis B, their 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
Most people who are vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine are immune for life.
2. Hepatitis B vaccine.
Hepatitis B vaccine is usually given as 2, 3, or 4 shots.
Infants should get their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and will usually complete the series at 6-18 months of age. The birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine is an important part of preventing long-term illness in infants and the spread of hepatitis B in the United States.
Children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not yet gotten the vaccine should also be vaccinated.
Adults who were not vaccinated previously and want to be protected against hepatitis B can also get the vaccine.
Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for the following people:
- People whose sex partners have hepatitis B
- Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term monogamous relationship
- People seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
- Victims of sexual assault or abuse
- Men who have sexual contact with other men
- People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
- People who live 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 people
- People living in jail or prison
- Travelers to regions with increased rates of hepatitis B
- People with chronic liver disease, kidney disease on dialysis, HIV infection, infection with hepatitis C, or diabetes
Hepatitis B vaccine may be given as a stand-alone vaccine, or as part of a combination vaccine (a type of vaccine that combines more than one vaccine together into one shot).
Hepatitis B vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
3. Talk with your health care provider.
Tell your vaccination provider if the person getting the vaccine:
- Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine, or has any severe, life-threatening allergies.
In some cases, your health care provider may decide to postpone hepatitis B vaccination until a future visit.
Pregnant or breastfeeding people should be vaccinated if they are at risk for getting hepatitis B. Pregnancy or breastfeeding are not reasons to avoid hepatitis B vaccination.
People with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting hepatitis B vaccine.
Your health care provider can give you more information.
4. Risks of a vaccine reaction.
- Soreness where the shot is given or fever can happen after hepatitis B vaccination.
People sometimes faint after medical procedures, including vaccination. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.
5. What if there is a serious problem?
An allergic reaction could occur after the vaccinated person leaves the clinic. If you see signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness), call 9-1-1 and get the person to the nearest hospital.
For other signs that concern you, call your health care provider.
Adverse reactions should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your health care provider will usually file this report, or you can do it yourself. Visit the VAERS website at vaers.hhs.gov or call 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions, and VAERS staff members do not give medical advice.
6. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines. Claims regarding alleged injury or death due to vaccination have a time limit for filing, which may be as short as two years. Visit the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccine-compensation/index.html or call 1-800-338-2382 to learn about the program and about filing a claim.
7. How can I learn more?
- Ask your health care provider.
- Call your local or state health department.
- Visit the website of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for vaccine package inserts and additional information at www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines.
Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO) or
- Visit CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Vaccine information statements (VIS): Hepatitis B VIS. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hep-b.html. Updated October 15, 2021. Accessed October 20, 2021.
Review Date: 10/15/2021
Reviewed By: Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.