The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, which is a contagious disease. There is a separate hepatitis B vaccine for children, which can be used from birth to sixteen-years-old. Hepatitis B vaccine side effects are uncommon and usually mild, such as headache and fever. A full course of the hepatitis B vaccine lasts a lifetime.
The hepatitis B vaccine lasts a lifetime for most people. After your first full course of the vaccine, which consists of three doses, you will not require any boosters to stay protected from hepatitis B.
If you need the hepatitis B vaccine, you should get your first dose at least 28 days before travel.
You only need two doses before your trip to be protected against hepatitis B, but you will need a third dose a minimum of six months later to ensure lifelong protection.
Like all medicines and vaccines, the hepatitis B injection can cause side effects, but most people do not experience any at all.
If you do experience hepatitis B vaccine side effects, they are very unlikely to be serious.
One in ten people experience common hepatitis B vaccine side effects. These include:
diarrhoea or stomach pain
pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
reactions at the injection site such as a hard lump
Less than one in 1000 people experience uncommon hepatitis B vaccine side effects. These include:
flu like symptoms
rash and itchiness
pins and needles
If you experience dizziness or drowsiness after the hepatitis B vaccine, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery until you feel better.
If your hepatitis B vaccine side effects do not improve, or they become worse, you should talk to your doctor.
In general, you should consider having the hepatitis B vaccine, if you are travelling to an area of the world where you have a high risk of catching the disease. Check if there is a current risk of hepatitis B in the country you are travelling to.
In addition, the hepatitis B vaccine may be recommended to people who have a higher chance of getting ill. This includes:
people who inject illegal drugs
people who have unprotected sex
people who have contact with an infected person
babies born to mothers who have hepatitis B
But despite the fact that the majority is recommended to have the vaccine, the hepatitis B injection can cause problems for people who are allergic to any of the ingredients of the vaccine, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people who are planning to have a baby.
It can also cause problems if you are currently unwell with a fever, if you are on dialysis for a kidney problem or if you are a carrier of hepatitis C or HIV.
If you belong to any of these groups or you are unsure whether you need the hepatitis b vaccine, you can book a free telephone consultation with one of our prescribing nurses for a personal assessment.
In the UK, children born after August 2017 are eligible to be given hepatitis B vaccines when they are young.
This consists of three doses of a hepatitis B vaccine. These doses are given at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Babies at high risk of developing the hepatitis B infection from infected mothers are given additional doses of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, four weeks and one year of age.
However, if your child was born before this time, they are likely unvaccinated. If you are unsure which vaccinations your child has received, you should consult your doctor.
The hepatitis B vaccine for children can be given from birth to sixteen years of age. It is recommended that your children have the vaccine if they are considered at risk of hepatitis B, for example, if they are traveling in a risk area.
A full course of the hepatitis B vaccine for children consists of three doses, and provides lifelong protection against the disease.
If your child needs the hepatitis B vaccine, they should get their first dose at least 28 days before travel, as they need two doses before the trip to be protected against hepatitis B.
Children will need a third dose a minimum of six months later to ensure lifelong protection.
If you may be at risk of hepatitis B, it is recommended that you check whether you need the vaccine, as the disease can be fatal. For the cost of the hepatitis B vaccine, see below.
Note that the cost of the hepatitis B vaccine for children may be lower than the below displayed price.
Anne Marie Major, Independent Nurse Prescriber
June 25, 2019