The hepatitis B vaccine is important for adults at risk. Learn more about who should receive the vaccine and the details of the dosage schedule. Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable viral disease that involves inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) usually leads to a short-term infection known as acute hepatitis B. If their infection is left untreated, some people
Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable viral disease that involves inflammation of the liver.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) usually leads to a short-term infection known as acute hepatitis B. If their infection is left untreated, some people develop chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B is a serious, permanent condition that can cause organ damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, liver failure, and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all people should be vaccinated against hepatitis B starting at birth. Adults who are at risk of developing hepatitis B should also receive the vaccine, which is highly effective in preventing infection.
Read on to learn more about the hepatitis B vaccine (HepB) for adults, including who should receive it, the details of the dosage schedule, side effects, and more.
Vaccination is the most reliable way to prevent getting hepatitis B or developing serious related medical complications.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that people in all age groups get the hepatitis B vaccine, including:
Adults over 60 who are not at risk of developing hepatitis B can also receive the HepB vaccine if they choose.
About 257 million people around the world have hepatitis B. In the U.S., estimates suggest that around 21,600 people have acute hepatitis B, while about 862,000 are living with chronic hepatitis B.
However, research indicates that only about one-third of people in the U.S. with chronic hepatitis are aware that they have the condition.
Hepatitis B spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as semen or blood. Examples include:
While anyone can get hepatitis B, certain people are more at risk. Risk factors for HBV include:
It’s especially important for adults in high-risk groups to get the hepatitis B vaccine. Adults in any age group who haven’t previously gotten the hepatitis B vaccine, or who did not complete all of their doses, should also get vaccinated.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following vaccines for the prevention of hepatitis B:
Engerix-B and Recombivax HB are approved for use in people of all ages, including infants. Heplisav-B is available only for adults ages 18 and older.
The HepB vaccine is not a live vaccine, which means that it does not contain any live version of the virus that causes hepatitis B.
All three HepB vaccines are recombinant vaccines. Recombinant vaccines are produced by inserting a small portion of DNA from a virus into a yeast cell. The yeast then produces a protein seen on the virus. When you receive the vaccine, your immune system learns to react to this protein and fight the virus.
The hepatitis B vaccine schedule for adults varies based on the person’s condition and the selected vaccine. Adults typically get the HepB vaccine in a two-, three-, or four-dose series. If you missed a dose, you can get the next one in the series without repeating the previous one.
Engerix-B, Heplisav-B, and Recombivax HB are single-antigen vaccines, meaning that they only provide immunity against one virus. The FDA has also approved two combination vaccines that prevent HBV:
Adults ages 18 and over can get a two-dose series of Heplisav-B for full protection against HBV. Heplisav-B is delivered as an intramuscular injection—a shot, usually in the upper arm—in two 0.5-milliliter doses, one month apart.
If you missed a dose of a different HepB vaccine, it can also be replaced by Heplisav-B.
For people age 20 and older, both Engerix-B and Recombivax HB are available in a three-dose series of 1 milliliters each across six months. The second dose is given one month after the first, and the third dose is given at six months.
People who are currently receiving hemodialysis (kidney dialysis) may need additional protection against hepatitis B. Adults on hemodialysis should get a four-dose series of Engerix-B across six months. These can be delivered in individual 2-milliliter doses or two 1-milliliter doses. After the first dose, they are given in one month, two months, and six months.
If you are taking or about to start taking a medication that suppresses your immune response, let your healthcare provider know. Immunosuppressants may make certain vaccines less effective. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get the hepatitis B vaccine at a particular time during your course of medication.
Most people only experience mild, short-term side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine. Common side effects include:
Severe allergic reactions to the hepatitis B vaccine are very rare. If you have symptoms of an allergic reaction shortly after getting the HepB vaccine—such as difficulty breathing, facial swelling, or hives—seek medical help immediately.
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective for most people. However, there are certain people who should not get the HepB vaccine, including:
It is safe for pregnant people who are at risk of hepatitis B to be vaccinated with Recombivax HB or Engerix-B. Pregnant people should avoid Helplisav-B until more safety information is available.
The hepatitis B vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent hepatitis B and related complications. Engerix-B, Recombivax HB, and Heplisav-B have all been approved by the FDA to prevent hepatitis B.
Adults at risk for contracting hepatitis B (such as people having sex or living with someone who has hepatitis B, intravenous drug users, healthcare workers, people who are undergoing kidney dialysis, and people with certain medical conditions) should get the HepB vaccine.
Adults who haven’t already been vaccinated against hepatitis B should also receive the vaccine.
Heplisav-B is delivered in a two-dose series in one month. It is available to adults 18 and over. Engerix-B and Recombivax HB are administered to adults 20 and older in a three-dose series across six months. Adults who are on hemodialysis can receive extra protection against HepB with a four-dose series of Engerix-B or Recombivax-HB across six months.
Hepatitis B can sometimes lead to serious medical consequences, including liver failure. Getting the hepatitis B vaccine is an effective, safe way to protect yourself from liver inflammation and potential complications.
The hepatitis B vaccine is typically delivered in a two-dose or three-dose series. People who are receiving kidney dialysis should usually get four doses of hepatitis B to increase their level of protection. Certain immunocompromised people may be given an additional HepB shot as well.
The hepatitis B vaccine provides long-lasting protection against both hepatitis B and related complications. Research indicates that the effects of the HepB vaccine last for at least 30 years for most healthy people. The results may not last as long for immunocompromised people and people with certain conditions.
In most cases, the hepatitis B vaccine offers long-lasting immunity to the virus that causes hepatitis B. However, it is still possible to get hepatitis B after getting vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are concerned that you may be at risk.