Did you know?
Many people who get hepatitis B show no symptoms and may not know they have the disease.
What is the hepatitis B vaccine?
The hepatitis B vaccine protects against the hepatitis B virus.
Who should get the hepatitis B vaccine?
- The hepatitis B vaccine is provided free to infants as part of their routine immunizations at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. It is usually given as a combined vaccine with diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (the DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib vaccine). Some babies are at greater risk of being infected with the hepatitis B virus and need to be immunized at birth. For more information, see the HealthLinkBC File: Protecting Your Baby against Hepatitis B at Birth.
- The hepatitis B vaccine is also provided free to students in Grade 6 who have not received the vaccine.
- People born in 1980 or later who have never received the hepatitis B vaccine or the recommended number of doses for their age can also get the vaccine for free.
The vaccine is also recommended for and 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.
Anyone who is not eligible for a free hepatitis B vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.
What are the benefits of the hepatitis B vaccine?
The hepatitis B vaccine is highly effective. It protects against hepatitis B infection and its complications, such as permanent liver damage, which can lead to liver cancer and death. When you get immunized, you help protect others as well.
What are the side effects?
Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get hepatitis B.
Many people have no side effects from the vaccine. However, for those that do, common side effects may include soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some may experience a mild fever.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a very rare possibility, between one in 100,000 and one in a million, of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.
Where can I learn more?
- Read the HealthLinkBC File: Hepatitis B Vaccine.
- Speak to your health care provider.
About hepatitis B
- Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver.
- It can cause serious disease, including permanent liver damage called cirrhosis. It is also one of the main causes of liver cancer, which can be fatal.
- The hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person. This includes an accidental or intentional poke with a used needle, being splashed in the mouth, nose, or eyes with infected blood, being bitten by an infected person, sharing items that may have blood on them such as a toothbrush, dental floss or razor, and by having unprotected sex with someone infected with the hepatitis B virus. Mothers who are infected with the hepatitis B virus can pass the virus to their newborn babies during delivery.
- When young children get infected with the hepatitis B virus, they often do not have symptoms, but most will stay infected for life. This is why getting protection from the vaccine at a young age is important.