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).

In the UK it is not currently part of the routine schedule. It is given only to those at high risk of hepatitis B disease. This includes:

  • Babies born to mothers who have been infected with HepB. These babies are exposed to the virus during birth, and should be vaccinated within 24 hours of birth. They should then go on to complete a course of three further doses at 1 month, 2 months, and 12 months of age.
  • People with chronic (long-term) liver disease or kidney conditions
  • People with blood clotting disorders (haemophilia)
  • 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.

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 Committe on Vaccination and Immunisation, who advise the UK Government on the vaccination schedule, has said that it "wishes to recommend universal hepatitis B vaccination". It is looking into whether a 6-in-1 combination vaccine containing the HepB vaccine could replace the current 5-in-1 vaccine given to infants at 2, 3 and 4 months.

The individual HepB vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines such as the 5-in-1 vaccine, PCV, Hepatitis A, MMR, MenC, 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.

Ingredients

It contains one of the proteins from the surface of the HepB 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. This is not a cause for concern. 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 HepB 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 the HepB viruses
  • sodium borate (borax), used as an acidity regulator

Latex may be used in the packaging of the HepB 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, October 24, 2016

Diseases

Hepatitis B

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