What is the hepatitis B vaccine?

The term hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is an infectious disease that results from infection with the Human Epatitis B virus (HBV). This virus is transmitted generally through blood and infected bodily fluids such as semen, breast milk, and vaginal secretions. Therefore, the infection can occur from sexual intercourse or childbirth. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Individuals should pay close attention to razors, toothbrushes, and scissors; all items which can penetrate the body through skin lesions or mucous membranes.


Hepatitis B affects the liver and can cause acute, chronic or fulminant hepatitis.

  • Acute hepatitis: the virus stays in the body for around one to three months
  • Chronic hepatitis: the virus stays in the body for six months or longer
  • Fulminant hepatitis: the virus develops into scarring of the liver (acute liver failure)


Although any individual can contract hepatitis B, common risk factors include the following:

  • Person to person contact (poor hygiene, sexual intercourse, healthcare workers)
  • Contaminated needles or blood
  • Injection of illegal drugs
  • Travelling to countries where hepatitis B is widespread


Hepatitis B vaccine is the best way to fend off the disease and prevent further complications from arising. The vaccine grants long-term protection against clinical illness and chronic hepatitis B virus infection.This is due to the fact that the body’s immune system produces antibodies against the hepatitis B virus. Cellular immunity may be persistent even in instances where antibody levels become low or fall below detectable levels.



What is the hepatitis B vaccine composed of?

The hepatitis B vaccine is produced in a lab with only part of the virus, though it is proven effective to protection against the infection. There is also a vaccine that combines Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, transmitted in individuals who are susceptible to both viruses.



When is it recommended to receive the hepatitis B vaccine?  

The hepatitis B vaccine is a mandatory vaccination for all children at age 1 year. It is administered in three doses, alone or in combination with other vaccines. The vaccine is also recommended for individuals who are at risk of the virus as health care workers and service personnel, operators of public safety, patients on dialysis or in need of transfusions, as well as life partners of infected individuals.  Drug interactions include: individuals with a weakened immune system, certain medications, pregnancy, and nursing mothers.



What are the side effects of the hepatitis B vaccine?  

The hepatitis B vaccine is very safe. Following administration, only a slight pain may be felt at the injection site. Mild symptoms that may occur include the following:

  • Redness
  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Swelling of the area of injection
  • Fever


Like all vaccines, there is the possibility of serious problems occurring, such as severe allergic reactions. Through rare, there are such cases that may present themselves and cause symptoms in individuals such as dizziness, fainting, vision changes, ringing in the ears, and shoulder pain.  These problems may occur within minutes or a few hours after the vaccination, depending on the individual’s immune system. They tend to last 2 or 3 days.