Your Child's Immunizations: Hepatitis B Vaccine (HepB)
Hepatitis B virus affects the liver. It can cause a mild illness with fever, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice.that last for a few weeks. Or it can cause a lifelong infection. Those who become lifelong carriers of the virus may develop long-term liver problems, such as cirrhosis (scarred and damaged liver) or cancer of the liver.
Hepatitis B vaccine (HepB) usually is given as a series of three injections:
- shortly after birth
- at 1–2 months of age
- at 6–18 months of age
If the mother of a newborn carries the hepatitis B virus in her blood, her baby must receive the vaccine within 12 hours after birth, along with another shot — hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) — to immediately provide protection against the virus. If a newborn's mother shows no evidence of the virus in her blood, the baby can receive the HepB vaccine within 24 hours after birth.
Anyone can receive the vaccine series at any time if they missed it as a baby. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting infected, such as health care and public safety workers, people with chronic liver or kidney disease, people with HIV infection, and people who inject drugs.
Why the Vaccine Is Recommended
The HepB injection usually creates long-term immunity. Infants who receive the HepB series should be protected from hepatitis B infection not only throughout their childhood but also into their adult years.
Eliminating the risk of infection also decreases risk for cirrhosis of the liver, chronic liver disease, and liver cancer.
There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction with any vaccine. Serious problems associated with receiving the vaccine are rare. Problems that do occur tend to be minor, such as mild fever and soreness or redness at the injection site.
When to Delay or Avoid Immunization
As long as the mother does not have the virus in her blood, immunization will be delayed for babies who weigh less than 4 pounds, 7 ounces (2,000 grams) at birth. The first dose will be given at 1 month of age or when the baby is discharged from the hospital.
The vaccine is not recommended if your child:
- is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
- had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after a previous dose of the vaccine or is allergic to baker's yeast
Caring for Your Child After Immunization
The vaccine may cause mild fever and soreness or redness in the area where the shot was given. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever and to find out the appropriate dose. Very young infants should not be given either of these medicines.
When to Call the Doctor
- Call if you're not sure of the recommended schedule for the HepB vaccine.
- Call if you have concerns about your own hepatitis B carrier state.
- Call if moderate or serious side effects appear after your child has received a HepB injection.