Hepatitis B vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccination is available for anyone who is at increased risk of hepatitis B or its complications.
Who should be vaccinated against hepatitis B?
You can get infected with hepatitis B if you have contact with an infected person's blood or other body fluids. People at risk of hepatitis B and who should therefore consider vaccination are:
people who inject drugs or have a partner who injects drugs
people who change their sexual partners frequently
men who have sex with men
babies born to infected mothers
close family and sexual partners of someone with hepatitis B
anyone who receives regular blood transfusions or blood products
people with any form of liver disease
people with chronic kidney disease
people travelling to high-risk countries
male and female sex workers
people who work somewhere that places them at risk of contact with blood or body fluids, such as nurses, prison staff, doctors, dentists and laboratory staff
families adopting/fostering children from high-risk countries
How to get vaccinated against hepatitis B
Ask your GP to vaccinate you, or visit any sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic for the hepatitis B vaccination.
Find a local genitourinary medicine clinic.
If your job places you at risk of hepatitis B infection it is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you rather than your GP. Contact your occupational health department.
What does hepatitis B immunisation involve?
For full protection, you will need three injections of hepatitis B vaccine over four to six months.
If you are a healthcare worker or you have kidney failure you will be followed up to see if you have responded to the vaccine. Anyone vaccinated by their own occupational health service can also request a blood test to see if they have responded to the vaccine.
Five year boosters are recommended for anyone thought to be at continuing risk of infection.
How safe is the hepatitis B vaccine?
The hepatitis B vaccine is very safe and other than some redness and soreness at the site of the injection, side effects from it are rare.
Emergency hepatitis B vaccination
If you've been exposed to the hepatitis B virus and have not been vaccinated before, you should seek medical advice immediately as you may benefit from the hepatitis B vaccine.
In some situations, you may also need to have an injection of antibodies called specific hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) along with the hepatitis B vaccine.
HBIG should ideally be given within 48 hours, but you can still have it up to a week after exposure.
Hepatitis B vaccination in pregnancy
Hepatitis B infection in pregnant women may result in severe disease for the mother and chronic infection for the baby so it's advised that hepatitis B vaccination should not be withheld from a pregnant women if she is in a high-risk category.
There is no evidence of any risk from vaccinating pregnant or breastfeeding women against hepatitis B. And since it's an inactivated (killed) vaccine, the risks to the unborn baby are likely to be negligible.
Babies and hepatitis B vaccination
Babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B need to be given a dose of the hepatitis B vaccine after they are born. This should be given within 24 hours of birth and followed by a further dose of the vaccine at one, two and twelve months after birth.
Some mothers infected with hepatitis B are considered especially high-risk because they are highly infectious. Babies born to these high-risk mothers should also receive an injection of HBIG at birth (in addition to hepatitis B vaccination) to give them rapid protection against infection.
All babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B should be tested at 12 months of age to check if they have become infected with hepatitis B.