About 125,000 people in Canada have chronic HBV infection. Each year it is estimated that 8000 people, mostly young adults, get infected with HBV and 400 to 500 people die from chronic hepatitis B in Canada. Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B. It is the first anti-cancer vaccine because it can prevent a form of liver cancer.

HEPATITIS B IS A SERIOUS DISEASE.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause short-term illness that causes:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  • Pain in muscles, joints, and stomach

It can also cause long-term illness that leads to:

  • Liver damage (cirrhosis)
  • Liver cancer
  • Death

HOW THE VIRUS IS SPREAD

Hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person. A person can get infected in several ways, such as:

  • Having unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Sharing needles when injecting illegal drugs
  • Being stuck with a used needle on the job
  • During birth when the virus passes from an infected mother to her baby

About one third of people who are infected with hepatitis B in the United States don't know how they got it.

Hepatitis B vaccine recommendations
Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for:

  • Everyone 18 years of age and younger
  • Adults over 18 who are at risk

Adults at risk for HBV infection include:

  • People who have more than one sex partner in 6 months
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • Sex contacts of infected people
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • Health care workers and public safety workers who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids
  • Household contacts of persons with chronic hepatitis B virus
  • Infection
  • Hemodialysis patients

If you are not sure whether you are at risk, ask your doctor or nurse.

People should get 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine according to the following schedule. If you miss a dose or get behind schedule, get the next dose as soon as you can. There is no need to start over.

For an infant whose mother is infected with HBV

  • First Dose: Within 12 hours of birth
  • Second Dose: 1 to 2 months of age
  • Third Dose: 6 months of age

For an infant whose mother is not infected with HBV

  • First Dose: Birth to 2 months of age
  • Second Dose: 1 to 4 months of age (at least 1 month after the first dose)
  • Third Dose: 6 to 18 months of age

For an older child. adolescent or adult

  • First Dose: Any time
  • Second Dose: 1 to 2 months after the first dose
  • Third Dose: 4 to 6 months after the first dose

For anyone

  • The second dose must be given at least 1 month after the first dose.
  • The third dose must be given at least 2 months after the second dose and at least 4 months after the first.
  • The third dose should not be given to infants younger than 6 months of age, because this could reduce long-term protection.

Adolescents 11 to 15 years of age may need only two doses of hepatitis B vaccine, separated by 4 to 6 months. Ask your health care provider for details.

Hepatitis B vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Who should not get hepatitis B vaccine or should wait
People should not get hepatitis B vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to baker's yeast (the kind used for making bread) or to a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting hepatitis B vaccine. Ask your doctor or nurse for more information.

Risks associated with hepatitis B vaccine
In a small number of people, vaccines can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of hepatitis B vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

Most people who get hepatitis B vaccine do not have any problems with it. Getting hepatitis B vaccine is much safer than getting hepatitis B disease.

Mild problems include:

  • Soreness where the shot was given, lasting a day or two (up to 1 out of 11 children and adolescents, and about 1 out of 4 adults)
  • Mild to moderate fever (up to 1 out of 14 children and adolescents and 1 out of 100 adults)

Severe problems include serious allergic reaction, however, this is very rare.

If there is a moderate or severe reaction
After vaccination, beware if there is any unusual condition, such as a serious allergic reaction, high fever or unusual behavior. Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare with any vaccine. If one were to occur, it would be within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. Signs can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Hives
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • A fast heartbeat or dizziness

This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult with your physician if you are in any way concerned about your health.

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