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What Is Hepatitis B?  

Hepatitis B is a disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus attacks the liver. The disease can cause:

HBV is spread through the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.

Most hepatitis B infections clear up without treatment. Others develop into chronic hepatitis B. This can lead to serious complications, even death.

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What Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine?  

The hepatitis B vaccine is produced by inserting a gene for HBV into yeast. The yeast is grown, harvested, and purified. The vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle. This is usually given in a series of 3-4 shots during a 6-month period.

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Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?  

Children  

Newborns routinely receive the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine before leaving the hospital. Two more injections are given to all infants at:

  • 1-2 months
  • 6-18 months

Depending on the type of vaccine, some babies may receive 4 doses.

Children and teens (aged 18 years or younger) who have not been immunized as babies can also get the vaccine. For children aged 11-15 years, there is a two-dose series available, called Recombivax HB.

Adults  

It is recommended that adults (aged 18 years or older) get vaccinated if they are at high risk for hepatitis B. High risk includes:

  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Getting treatment or counseling for a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Sex without using a condom including vaginal and anal sex
  • Being an IV drug user or having a history of injecting drugs
  • Having chronic kidney disease , liver disease, or HIV
  • Undergoing dialysis
  • Having diabetes if you are younger than 60 years old
  • Having a job where you might be exposed to HBV-infected blood or body fluids
  • Working or living in an institution for the developmentally disabled
  • Living with or working with people who have chronic HBV infection
  • Traveling to areas where there is a high rate of HBV infection
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What Are the Risks Associated With the Hepatitis B Vaccine?  

All vaccines are capable of causing serious problems, such as a severe allergic reaction.

Most people who get the hepatitis B vaccine do not have problems. Some may have mild problems, including soreness where the shot was given and fever.

Acetaminophen is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. In infants, the medication may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with the doctor.