Questions & Answers
Hepatitis B - The Vaccine
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Overview

Questions
Answers
  1. How can hepatitis B be prevented?

    If hepatitis B vaccine is administered before infection, it prevents the disease and the carrier state in almost all individuals.

    The hepatitis B vaccine can provide protection in 90% to 95% of healthy young adults. The vaccine can be given safely to infants, children, and adults, usually in three doses over a 6-month period. Even pregnant women can be safely given these shots, if their risk factors warrant it. Hepatitis B shots are very safe, and side effects are rare. Hepatitis B vaccine is that first vaccine that prevents cancer—liver cancer.

  2. How safe and effective is the vaccine?
    Hepatitis B vaccine has an outstanding record of safety and effectiveness. Studies have shown that the vaccine is 95% effective in preventing children and adults from developing chronic infection.

  3. What are the risks from hepatitis B vaccine?
    A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of hepatitis B vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small. Getting hepatitis B vaccine is much safer than getting hepatitis B disease.

  4. Who should get immunized?
    • All babies, at birth
    • All children 0 to 18 years of age who have not been immunized
    • People of any age whose behavior puts them at high risk for hepatitis B infection
    • People whose job exposes them to human blood


  5. If there is a moderate or severe reaction, what should I do?
    Any unusual condition, such as a serious allergic reaction, high fever or unusual behavior should be reported to your health care provider. Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare with any vaccine. If one were to occur, it would be within in a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. Signs can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness. If any of these symptoms occur, you should seek immediate medical attention, then explain the details of the event to your doctor and ask them to report the event to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS, www.vaers.hhs.gov).

  6. At what age are hepatitis B shots routinely given?
    In the U.S., hepatitis B shots are routinely recommended for all children 0 to 18 years of age. For babies, the first hepatitis B shot is recommended to be given in the hospital just after birth. Older children and teens should be immunized at the earliest opportunity. Any adult who is at risk for hepatitis B infection should start the vaccine series right away.

  7. Where can I get hepatitis B shots?
    At any military immunization clinic. In the private sector, Tricare and children's health insurance often cover the cost of this vaccine. If a child is uninsured, ask your local health department for assistance. For adults, contact the healthcare provider first, to find out if the vaccine is covered under the health plan. For people who are uninsured, call your local health department for advice.