Hepatitis B Vaccine

Key vaccine facts

This vaccine gives protection against the hepatitis B virus, which is a major cause of serious liver disease, including liver cancer and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver which prevents the liver from working properly).

The individual hepatitis B vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines such as the PCV, hepatitis A, MMR, pre-school booster and other travel vaccines. The vaccines should be given at a separate site, preferably in a different arm or leg.

The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, and cannot cause hepatitis B disease.

Since the disease is so serious, the World Health Organization has said that all babies in the world should be protected by hepatitis B vaccination. In the UK all babies are now offered the combination 6-in-1 vaccine which contains hepatitis B vaccine as well as vaccines against five other serious diseases.

Who should have the vaccine?

The individual (monovalent) hepatitis B vaccine continues to be given to those in the UK at high risk of hepatitis B disease. This includes:

  • Babies born to mothers who have been infected with hepatitis B. These babies are exposed to the virus during birth, and should be given the individual hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth. They should be given another dose of the individual vaccine at 4 weeks, and then follow the routine UK schedule (three doses of the 6-in-1 vaccine at 2 months, 3 months and 4 months of age). They should have another dose of the individual hepatitis B vaccine at 12 months of age. They will also be tested for hepatitis B infection at this time. Babies born to women who are thought to be particularly infectious may also be given hepatitis B immunoglobulin at birth. This provides immediate, temporary protection while the baby develops their own immunity through vaccination.
  • People with chronic (long-term) liver disease or kidney conditions
  • People with blood disorders such as haemophilia, who receive blood products
  • Close family contacts of someone with chronic hepatitis B infection
  • Foster carers and people adopting children from countries where there is a high risk of hepatitis B infection
  • People who inject drugs
  • People who change sexual partners frequently
  • Prisoners
  • People with learning disabilities who live in residential accommodation
  • Healthcare workers and other staff in healthcare settings who may come into direct contact with blood or blood products
  • Workers in other settings who may be at risk of injury from needles, or at risk of being deliberately injured or bitten by patients.

The hepatitis B vaccine may also be recommended as a travel vaccine for travel to some parts of the world.

Ingredients

There are several different hepatitis B vaccines used in the UK. For full information about ingredients, ask for the Patient Information Leaflet for the vaccine you are offered. (See the 6-in-1 vaccine page for information about ingredients for this vaccine.)

Apart from the active ingredients (the antigens), hepatitis B vaccines contain very small amounts of this added ingredient:

  • Aluminium, which strengthens and lengthens the immune response to the vaccine

Hepatitis B vaccines may also contain tiny traces of products used during the manufacturing process:

  • yeast proteins from the yeast used to grow the hepatitis B proteins for the vaccine. A tiny quantity may remain in the vaccine, but there is no evidence that this can cause allergic reactions.
  • formaldehyde, used to inactivate (kill) the hepatitis B viruses used in the vaccine
  • sodium chloride (salt) and other salts based on sodium and potassium, used as acidity regulators
  • sodium borate (borax), used as an acidity regulator

Growing the active ingredients for the vaccines:

  • Hepatitis B vaccines contain one of the proteins from the surface of the hepatitis B virus (HepB surface antigen, or HBsAg). This protein is made by inserting the genetic code into yeast cells, which removes any risk of viral DNA getting into the final product. This process is called recombinant DNA technology.

Latex may be used in the packaging of some of the hepatitis B vaccines.

Side effects

Several different makes of hepatitis B vaccine are used in the UK. For full information about side effects, ask for the Patient Information Leaflet for the vaccine you are offered. Side effects reported for hepatitis B vaccines in general are listed below.

Very common (affecting more than 1 in 10 people at each dose):

  • Headache
  • Pain, redness and hardness at the injection site
  • Feeling tired or irritable
  • Loss of appetite

Common (affecting up to 1 in 10 people at each dose):

  • High temperature (fever) above 37.5 degrees
  • Feeling sick or being sick
  • Diarrhoea or pain in the stomach
  • Swelling, bruising or itching at the injection site
  • Generally feeling unwell

Uncommon (affecting up to 1 in 100 people at each dose):

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Aching muscles
  • Flu-like symptoms

Rare (affecting up to 1 in 1000 people at each dose):

  • Low blood pressure
  • Joint pain (arthralgia)
  • Hives, rash or itchiness
  • Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • Swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin (lymphadenopathy)

More serious side effects are very rare (affecting fewer than 1 in 10,000 people at each dose). You should consult your doctor if you or your child experiences suspected serious side effects after vaccination. This is mainly to check that it is the vaccine causing the symptoms, and not some unrelated disease.

Anaphylaxis

As with any vaccine, medicine or food, there is a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is different from less severe allergic reactions because it causes life-threatening breathing and/or circulation problems. It is always extremely serious but can be treated with adrenaline. Health care workers who give vaccines know how to do this. In the UK between 1997 and 2003 there were a total of 130 reports of anaphylaxis following ALL immunisations. Around 117 million doses of vaccines were given in the UK during this period. This means that the overall rate of anaphylaxis is around 1 in 900,000.

More information on side effects

Reactions listed under ‘possible side effects’ or ‘adverse events’ on vaccine product information sheets may not all be directly linked to the vaccine. See Vaccine side effects and adverse reactions for more information on why this is the case.

If you are concerned about any reactions that occur after vaccination, consult your doctor. In the UK you can report suspected vaccine side effects to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) through the Yellow Card Scheme . You can also contact the MHRA to ask for data on Yellow Card reports for individual vaccines . See more information on the Yellow Card scheme and monitoring of vaccine safety.

Page last updated: 
Friday, January 25, 2019

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