If someone presents you with a hepatitis B declination form, you might have some questions about it and the hepatitis B vaccine more generally.

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver due to the hepatitis B virus. The virus is transmissible through exposure to bodily fluids that carry the virus, including blood and semen.

This can happen during sexual activity, intravenous substance use, childbirth, or through contact with bodily fluids in the workplace.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends vaccinating all infants, children, and adolescents.

They also recommend that adults ages 19–59 who have not yet received the vaccine and adults ages 60 and older with risk factors for hepatitis B get the vaccine.

Some employers must present their employees with a hepatitis B declination form, offering them the vaccination option.

A hepatitis B declination form is a form your employer may give you to offer you the hepatitis B vaccine option due to the occupational risk of exposure to the virus.

You can sign to either accept or decline the vaccination. If you decline now, you can accept it at a later date should you change your mind.

Workers in jobs with a reasonable expectation of contact with blood and other potentially infectious materials tend to be at risk of hepatitis B through occupational exposure.

As a result, employers must make the option of vaccination available.

It’s important for you not to get the vaccine if you’re allergic to yeast or have had a serious allergic reaction to a prior dose of the vaccine or any part of it.

You may also choose to decline if you’ve already received the hepatitis B vaccination series.

Employers must develop a control plan and put precautions and control measures in place to protect employees, including providing personal protective equipment. Some people may decide to decline the hepatitis B vaccine because they see these measures as sufficient, but the best defense against hepatitis B can still be the vaccine.

A doctor can give you the hepatitis B vaccine during pregnancy and while breastfeeding or chestfeeding.

People who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or chestfeeding may want to consider getting the Engerix-B, Recombivax HB, or Twinrix vaccine for hepatitis B.

Experts need more research to determine if the Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio vaccines are safe to get during these times.

The main risk of declining the hepatitis B vaccination is that you may not have protection from the virus if you experience exposure.

For many adults, hepatitis B infection is acute and won’t cause any lasting complications. Some people may go on to develop chronic hepatitis B.

Chronic hepatitis B can lead to more serious conditions over time — including cirrhosis, liver damage, and liver cancer — and can be life threatening.

Simply put, the hepatitis B vaccine prevents hepatitis B.

Studies have indicated that the vaccine is typically effective at protecting against hepatitis B and that this protection lasts.

One 2016 study tested for antibodies in people 30 years after they received a series of hepatitis B vaccines, while a 2021 study looked at people who received the vaccine as infants almost two decades later.

It’s usually safe, too, with temporary soreness around the injection site being the most common side effect.

While there will always be a chance of more serious side effects, as with any vaccine, these are rare. And experts are constantly monitoring the safety of vaccinations.

Some employers may offer people working in some jobs the hepatitis B vaccine declination form due to a requirement to offer the vaccine option. If someone offers you the vaccine declination form, whether you decide to accept the hepatitis B vaccine is your decision.

However, there are benefits to having the vaccine — it’s usually safe and can prevent you from developing hepatitis B and potentially more serious conditions as a result.

But if you do decline to get the vaccine and change your mind later, you’ll still be able to get the vaccine further down the line.

Adam England lives in the UK, and his work has appeared in a number of national and international publications. When he’s not working, he’s probably listening to live music.