Just The Facts: The Vaccine Is Designed To Prevent Hepatitis B Infection
Hepatitis B is a serious illness caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) that attacks the liver. There are two types of HBV illnesses:
Acute (short term): Acute HBV illness leads to loss of appetite, vomiting, tiredness, jaundice, and pain in muscles, joints and stomach. Acute HBV illness is usually seen in adults.
Chronic (long-term) illness: Chronic HBV illness is most common among infants and children. It causes liver damage, liver cancer and can lead to death.
Even those who do not have an HBV illness can still be a carrier and spread HBV to others. HBV is spread through contact with blood or bodily fluids of someone who is infected. This can occur by:
- Being stuck with a used needle
- Contact with a mother’s bodily fluids or blood during childbirth
- Sharing needles when injecting drugs
- Breaks in the skin such as cuts, bites or sores
- Having unprotected sex with an infected person
- Contact with objects that could have blood or bodily fluids on them
Hepatitis B Vaccines
The HBV vaccine can prevent HBV. This, in turn, can prevent cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is made from a part of the Hepatitis B virus, but cannot cause HBV itself. It is usually given in a series of 3-4 shots, which begin at birth and end at 6moths to 1 Â½ years of age.
Since 1991, the HBV vaccine has been a staple in vaccinations of children. Since then, HBV among children and teens has dropped 95%. HBV infection has dropped 75% in all age groups.
Risks of Hepatitis B Vaccine
As with all medications, some people experience allergic reactions. Signs of an allergic reaction include high fever, behavioral changes, difficulty breathing, wheezing, hoarseness, hives, paleness, weakness, quickened heartbeat, and dizziness. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your health care provider immediately and seek medical attention.
Mild risks associated with the HBV vaccine include: redness, swelling or soreness at the injection site and mild fever (about 99.9°). In general, the HBV vaccine is a very safe vaccine.
Is the vaccine right for you?
All children should get the HBV vaccine series beginning at birth. Those who were not vaccinated at birth should still get the vaccine, especially those who have a high risk of contracting HBV such as:
- Sex partners of people infected with HBV
- Men who have sex with men
- People who inject street drugs
- People with more than one sex partner
- People with chronic kidney or liver disease
- People with jobs that expose them to human blood
- Household contacts of people infected with HBV
- Residents and staff of institutions
- Kidney dialysis patients
- People who travel to countries where HBV is prevalent
- People with an HIV infection
Talk to your healthcare provider before getting vaccinated if you have a life threatening allergy to baker’s yeast.
HBV vaccination can be given to women who are or may become pregnant.