The hepatitis B vaccine, hepatitis B immune globulin, is given in either three or four doses (depending on the medicine brand used).
How Soon Should I Get Vaccinated?
The hepatitis B virus is harder to fight off naturally the younger you are. You should get the vaccine as early as possible.
Hepatitis B and Children
It is now recommended that all newborn babies receive the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine before they leave the hospital. Universal hepatitis B vaccination in newborns began in the 1990s in the U.S. and is now implemented in 185 countries worldwide.
Some babies are born to mothers who are infected, and these babies will need to receive the vaccine within the first 12 hours of birth (the vaccine is most effective when given within this time period). Otherwise, their risk of having a chronic hepatitis B infection is 90 percent.
Children ages one to five have a 25 to 50 percent chance of developing a lifelong chronic infection if infected with hepatitis B. Children who did not receive the vaccine as a baby should get it as soon as possible.
More on hepatitis B and children.
Hepatitis B Risk Factors
People who are at a higher risk for contracting the hepatitis B virus and those who are less likely to naturally clear the virus from their body should get the vaccine. This includes people who:
- Use drugs
- Have HIV
- Are between the ages of 0-18.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all infants and children under the age of 18 receive the hepatitis B vaccine.
- Have diabetes
- Were born in Asia, the Pacific Islands or sub-Saharan Africa
- Have a parent who was born in the Pacific Islands, sub-Saharan Africa or Asia (nearly 67 percent of Asian Americans with hepatitis B don’t know they’re infected)
- Travel to places where hepatitis B is common (Asia, Southeast Asia, India, Middle East, parts of South America and Africa)
- Are male and have sex with men
- Work in health care
- Live or work in a prison
- Have adopted a child from a country where hepatitis B is widespread
- Have ever had a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Live with or are sexually active with an infected person
- Are on kidney dialysis
- Have chronic liver disease or end-stage kidney disease
Other people who are at higher risk are those whose immune system will be compromised by chemotherapy or immunosuppressants.
A HIV-HBV coinfection is when a person has both hepatitis B and HIV. This combination is deadly as it accelerates liver disease. UC San Diego Health hepatologists (liver experts) specialize in HIV-HBV coinfections.