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Home > Health Library > Hepatitis B Vaccine: What You Need to Know
Hepatitis B is a serious disease that affects the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can cause mild illness lasting a few weeks, or it can lead to a serious, lifelong illness.
Hepatitis B virus infection can be either acute or chronic.
Acute hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis B virus. This can lead to:
Chronic hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis B virus remains in a person's body. Most people who go on to develop chronic hepatitis B do not have symptoms, but it is still very serious and can lead to:
Chronically-infected people can spread hepatitis B virus to others, even if they do not feel or look sick themselves. Up to 1.4 million people in the United States may have chronic hepatitis B infection. About 90% of infants who get hepatitis B become chronically infected and about 1 out of 4 of them dies.
Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. People can become infected with the virus through:
Each year about 2,000 people in the United States die from hepatitis B-related liver disease.
Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B and its consequences, including liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Hepatitis B vaccine is made from parts of the hepatitis B virus. It cannot cause hepatitis B infection. The vaccine is usually given as 3 or 4 shots over a 6-month period.
Infants should get their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and will usually complete the series at 6 months of age.
All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not yet gotten the vaccine should also be vaccinated.
Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for unvaccinated adults who are at risk for hepatitis B virus infection, including:
There are no known risks to getting hepatitis B vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.
Tell the person who is giving the vaccine:
With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.
Most people who get hepatitis B vaccine do not have any problems with it.
Minor problems following hepatitis B vaccine include:
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1 or 2 days.
Your doctor can tell you more about these reactions.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor should file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS does not give medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.
Vaccine Information Statement
Hepatitis B Vaccine
42 U.S.C. § 300aa-26
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Many Vaccine Information Statements are available in Spanish and other languages. See www.immunize.org/vis.
Muchas hojas de información sobre vacunas están disponibles en español y en otros idiomas. Visite www.immunize.org/vis.
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