Hepatitis B

Did you know?

Half of all people who get hepatitis B can't tell they have the disease.

DSI Hepatitis B

About the vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B infection and its complications such as permanent liver damage, which can lead to liver cancer and death. 

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get Hepatitis B.

Who should get the vaccine? 

The hepatitis B vaccine is provided free to infants as part of their routine immunizations.  It is given in combination with other childhood vaccines so that they can be protected against several diseases with one shot. 

The vaccine is also provided free to people born in 1980 or later who have never received the vaccine or have not received the recommended number of doses for their age.

The vaccine is also provided free to children and adults at high risk of hepatitis B infection, including:

  • Children under 12 years of age whose families have emigrated from areas with high rates of hepatitis B
  • Household contacts of internationally adopted children
  • Household and sexual contacts of someone with hepatitis B
  • Males who have sexual contact with other males
  • Those with many sexual partners or a recent sexually transmitted infection
  • Illicit drug users and their sexual partners
  • Those with chronic liver disease, hepatitis C, or a liver transplant
  • Those with chronic kidney disease including predialysis, hemodialysis, or peritoneal dialysis patients.
  • Those who have received a kidney or stem cell transplant.
  • Those who have hemophilia or receive repeated infusions of blood or blood products.
  • Those who are HIV positive
  • Inmates of a correctional facility
  • Teachers, staff and students in a childcare setting attended by a child with hepatitis B whose behaviour or medical condition increases the chances of exposure to that child's blood or body fluids.
  • Staff or residents in a community group home for the developmentally challenged
  • Students training in a health care profession, health care workers, pharmacists and others who may have contact with blood and body fluids in their jobs

Vaccines are available from public health units, doctors' offices and pharmacies (for people 5 years of age and older).  Anyone who is not eligible for a free hepatitis B vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.  Services vary across BC. 

For more information about the hepatitis B vaccine, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Hepatitis B Vaccine.

About the disease

  • Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver
  • It can cause serious disease including permanent liver damage (cirrhosis)
  • Hepatitis B is also the main cause of liver cancer, which can be fatal
  • Half of all people who get hepatitis B can't tell they have the disease
  • Hepatitis B virus is spread from one infected person to another by contact with blood or body fluids. Mothers who are infected with hepatitis B virus can pass the virus to their newborn babies during delivery
  • Whether you have signs of illness or not, if you have the virus in your body you can pass it on to others
  • Signs of illness may be: tiredness, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, tenderness in the upper right side of the stomach area, dark colored urine, clay colored stools and a yellowing of skin and eyeballs (jaundice)

Photo courtesy of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. More vaccine preventable disease images