Hepatitis B Vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine gives protection against the hepatitis B virus, which is a major cause of serious liver disease. It is routinely available as part of the GHA vaccination schedule; and also offered to those considered to be at increased risk of hepatitis B or its complications.
When should babies have the Hepatitis B vaccine?
The vaccine is offered to all babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine.
Babies at high risk of developing hepatitis B infection from infected mothers are given additional doses of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, 4 weeks and 1 year of age.
How is the Hepatitis B vaccine given?
The vaccine is injected into your baby’s thigh.
How safe is the Hepatitis B vaccine?
The hepatitis B vaccine is an inactivated (dead) vaccine; it cannot cause the infection itself and is very safe. Other than some redness and soreness at the site of the injection, side effects are rare.
Who should be vaccinated against Hepatitis B?
All infants should be vaccinated to protect against hepatitis B infection.
Anyone can get infected with hepatitis B if they have contact with an infected person’s blood or other body fluids. People who are at risk of getting hepatitis B or developing serious complications from it should be vaccinated. These groups include:
- people who inject drugs or have a partner who injects drugs
- people who change their sexual partners frequently
- men who have sex with men
- babies born to infected mothers
- close family or sexual partners of someone with hepatitis B
- anyone who receives regular blood transfusions or blood products, and their carers
- people with any form of chronic liver disease
- people with chronic kidney disease
- people travelling to high-risk countries
- male and female sex workers
- people whose work puts them at risk of contact with blood or body fluids (e.g. nurses, prison staff, doctors, dentists and laboratory staff)
- families adopting or fostering children from high-risk countries
What is emergency Hepatitis B vaccination?
If you have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus and have not been vaccinated before, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible and arrange to have the hepatitis B vaccine.
In some situations, you may also need to have an injection of antibodies, called specific hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG), along with the hepatitis B vaccine.
Ideally, HBIG should be given within 48 hours, but you can still have it up to a week after exposure.
What about the Hepatitis B vaccine in pregnancy?
Hepatitis B infection in pregnant women may result in severe disease for the mother and chronic infection for the baby. Therefore, the Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for pregnant women who are in a high-risk category.
What about babies born to mothers infected with Hepatitis B?
Pregnant women have a routine blood test for hepatitis B as part of their antenatal care.
Babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B need to be given a dose of the hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of their birth. This should be followed by further doses at 4, 8, 12 and 16 weeks and a final dose when they are 1 year old.
Babies of mothers identified by the blood test as particularly infectious might also be given an injection of HBIG at birth in addition to the hepatitis B vaccination to give them rapid protection against infection.
All babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B should be tested at 1 year of age to check if they have become infected with the virus.