Hepatitis B (HBV) is a virus that can cause liver disease. It’s extremely contagious. The virus can be spread by infected blood or body fluids, including through:
- unprotected sex
- sharing drugs and needles
- ear piercing
- touching contaminated fluids
- sharing toothbrushes
HBV can spread from a pregnant mother to her child.
The hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine is given in three doses, over six months. It’s used for at-risk individuals and anyone who wants protection from HBV.
The HepB vaccine is recommended for many groups of individuals, including:
- infants at birth, while still in the hospital
- older children who are not fully vaccinated for HepB
- people who live with someone with HBV
- health-care workers
- men who have sex with men
- injection drug users
- anyone who wishes to be protected
The HepB vaccine is a very safe way to reduce your risk of HBV. Most people should consider vaccination. However, you don’t need the vaccine if you are infected or immune. Tests are available to determine if you have been previously exposed to HBV.
Certain individuals shouldn’t receive the HepB vaccine, including those with:
- severe allergies to baker’s yeast or other components of the vaccine
- past severe reactions to HepB vaccine
- current moderate-to-severe illness
The HepB vaccine is considered to be very safe. However, many people have soreness at the site of the shot. A temperature of 99.9 degrees or higher is also not uncommon.
Severe side effects like serious allergic reactions are extremely rare.