Prevention of Hepatitis B and Few Questions About Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B infection can be effectively prevented by vaccination, which can prevent the disease for long duration and probably lifelong. Vaccination can prevent serious consequences of hepatitis B infection such as liver cancer and liver cirrhosis. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and can be administered along with other routine vaccines. Currently several hepatitis B vaccines are available commercially, which area given intramuscularly.

Currently in many countries hepatitis B vaccination is recommended routinely to all infants, which has resulted in reduction of hepatitis B infection by more than 95%, where it is implemented. Among adults hepatitis B vaccine is recommended among high risk individuals.

What is the hepatitis B vaccination schedule?

The vaccination for hepatitis B vaccine is generally given in three doses.

  • The first dose should be given at birth
  • Second dose at 1-2 months of age or at least one month after the first dose.
  • Third dose 6-18 months or at least 6 months after the first dose.

For adults (or children not vaccinated at birth) the dosing schedule can be 0, 1 and 6 months, a total of 3 doses, i.e. the second dose taken at least one month or 4 weeks after the first dose and the third dose taken 6 months after the first dose (or 5 months after the second dose).

Sometime 4 doses may be given, especially if combination or multivalent (several vaccines in single shot) vaccine is used. The extra dose of hepatitis B vaccine causes no harm.

Who should get hepatitis B vaccine?

Children and adolescents:

All infants should be given hepatitis B vaccine routinely at birth and completed the schedule 3 doses. Any child who did not get hepatitis B vaccine at birth should get it if he/she is below 18 years of age.

Hepatitis B Vaccine for Adults:

All adults at risk of hepatitis B infection should get vaccinated and they include:

  • Homosexual men.
  • If sex partner have hepatitis B infection.
  • Individuals with multiple sex partners.
  • Drug addicts who use intravenous street drugs.
  • Diabetic individuals below age of 60 years.
  • Individuals with jobs that expose them to human blood or body fluids, such as doctors, nurses, lab technicians, paramedical staffs, in another word all individuals working in hospital for patient care.
  • Staffs and residents of institutes which look after developmentally disable persons.
  • Individuals with chronic liver disease or kidney disease.
  • Kidney dialysis patients.
  • HIV infected persons.
  • Household contacts of hepatitis B infected persons.
  • Individuals traveling to regions where hepatitis B is endemic and common.

It is also important to mention that anyone (in addition to above mentioned high risk individuals) who wants to be protected from hepatitis B infection can get hepatitis B vaccine, including low risk pregnant women. There is no harm in getting hepatitis B vaccine, even without any risk of hepatitis B infection.

How long does hepatitis B vaccine provide immunity against hepatitis B infection?

Hepatitis B vaccine provide protection for indefinite duration, although it was believed previously that it provide immunity for 5 to 7 years. In the UK the vaccination guideline advocated a booster dose at 5 years only for health care workers, who need ongoing immunity.

 

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