Hepatitis B virus affects the liver. Those who are infected can become lifelong carriers of the virus and may develop long-term problems such as cirrhosis (liver disease) or cancer of the liver.
Hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) usually is given as a series of three injections:
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 HBV any time prior to leaving the hospital.
The HBV injection usually creates long-term immunity. Infants who receive the HBV 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. Young adults and adolescents also should receive the vaccine if they did not as infants.
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.
The vaccine is not recommended if your child:
The vaccine may cause mild fever and soreness or redness in the area where the shot was given. Depending on your child's age, pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Very young infants should not be given either medication, but for older babies or kids, check with the doctor about the appropriate medication and dose.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014
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