Hepatitis B is a common disease in the United States. The good news is that the hepatitis B vaccine gives more than 90% protection to people who get the vaccine.
There are 2 vaccines that protect against hepatitis B:
- The hepatitis B vaccine protects infants, children, and adults from hepatitis B
- The hepatitis A and B combination vaccine protects adults from both hepatitis B and hepatitis A
Because of the vaccine, cases of acute (short-term) hepatitis B have decreased by a lot in the United States. But chronic (long-term) hepatitis B is still common — up to 2.2 million people in the United States have it. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to serious liver problems — and even death.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by a virus. There are 2 types of hepatitis B:
- Acute (short-term) hepatitis B
- Chronic (long-term) hepatitis B
Many children who get acute hepatitis B don’t have any symptoms, but most adults do. Symptoms may include:
- Feeling tired
- Upset stomach and throwing up
- Not feeling hungry
- Dark pee or clay-colored poop
- Pain in the muscles, joints, and stomach
- Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
Acute hepatitis B symptoms usually last a few weeks — but they can last as long as 6 months.
If the acute hepatitis B infection does not go away after 6 months, it’s considered a chronic hepatitis B infection. Most people who have chronic hepatitis B don’t have symptoms at first. But chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong illness that can lead to serious — and possibly deadly — liver problems, like:
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- Liver cancer
- Liver failure
Hepatitis B spreads through blood, semen, or other body fluids. Hepatitis B can spread from mother to child during birth — and when someone:
- Has sex with a person who has hepatitis B
- Shares drug needles with a person who has hepatitis B
- Shares a razor or toothbrush with a person who has hepatitis B
- Touches the blood or open sores of a person who has hepatitis B
All children need to get the hepatitis B vaccine — and some adults may need it, too.
Infants and children
All children need to get the hepatitis B vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule.
Children need 3 doses of the vaccine at the following ages:
- Birth for the first dose
- 1 through 2 months for the second dose
- 6 through 18 months for the third dose
Children and teens younger than 19 years who did not get the hepatitis B vaccine can still get vaccinated. Talk with your child’s doctor about a catch-up shot.
Adults at increased risk for hepatitis B
Adults who are at risk for hepatitis B can also get vaccinated. The vaccine is given in 3 doses. The second dose is given 1 month after the first dose, followed by a third dose 6 months after the second dose.
You may be at risk for hepatitis B if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have sex or live with someone who has hepatitis B
- Have sex with more than 1 partner
- Have an STD (sexually transmitted disease)
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Use drugs with needles
- Could come into contact with blood at work (like in health care)
- Get hemodialysis treatment for kidney problems
- Travel to countries where hepatitis B is common
- Have hepatitis C
- Have a chronic liver disease
- Have HIV
- Are in jail or prison
If you’re age 18 and older and at risk for both hepatitis B and hepatitis A, you may be able to get a combination vaccine that protects against both diseases. You may be at risk for both diseases if you:
- Are traveling to certain countries where hepatitis B is common
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Use drugs
Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from hepatitis B.
Some people should not get the hepatitis B vaccine — or may need to wait to get it. Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine
- Are sick
Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:
- Soreness or redness where the shot was given
Serious side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine are very rare.
Like any medicine, there's a very small chance that the hepatitis B vaccine could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting the hepatitis B vaccine is much safer than getting hepatitis B. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines.