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 caused by long-term liver damage).

Since the disease is so serious, the World Health Organization has said that all babies in the world should be protected by the HepB vaccine. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the UK Government on the vaccination schedule, recently recommended that a 6-in-1 combination vaccine containing the hepatitisB vaccine should be introduced in the UK. It will replace the current 5-in-1 vaccine for all babies born on or after 1st August 2017.

The individual (monovalent) hepatitis B vaccine will continue 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). 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.

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 is inactivated, and cannot cause hepatitis B disease.

Hepatitis B vaccine shortage

In August 2017 it was announced that there was a global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine. This will not affect the new 6-in-1 vaccine. Public Health England has published guidance to ensure that those most at risk continue to be protected.

Ingredients

It contains 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.

It contains a small amount of aluminium which strengthens and lengthens the immune response to the vaccine. See more information on aluminium.

It also contains small amounts of sodium chloride (salt) and other salts based on sodium and potassium, used as acidity regulators.

The vaccine may also contain tiny traces of products used during the manufacturing process. Click on the links to see more information on our Ingredients page:

  • 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 borate (borax), used as an acidity regulator

Latex may be used in the packaging of the individual hepatitis B vaccine.

The hepatitis B vaccines used in the UK do not contain thiomersal.

Side effects

The following reactions are common but not serious: redness, tenderness and/or hardness at the injection site.

More serious side effects are very rare: high temperatures, skin rashes, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, sickness, diarrhoea.

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 serious but can be treated with adrenaline. In the UK between 1997 and 2003 there were a total of 130 reports of anaphylaxis following ALL immunisations, but all of these people survived. Around 117 million doses of vaccines were given in the UK during this period, making the overall rate around 1 in 900,000. Depending on the cause of the reaction, and following expert guidance, the person may be able to have vaccinations in the future.

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.

See more information on the monitoring of vaccine safety.

Page last updated: 
Monday, August 14, 2017

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