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Hepatitis A and B Vaccines

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Who Should Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Because of the risk of hepatitis B in infants becoming chronic, the CDC recommends that all infants be vaccinated, starting with the first dose at birth. In addition, the following people are considered at risk for hepatitis B and should be vaccinated:

  • Children and adolescents younger than 19 who have not been vaccinated
  • People whose sex partner has hepatitis B
  • People who are sexually active but are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship
  • Anyone being evaluated or treated for an STD
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who share instruments used to inject drugs
  • Anyone who has close household contact with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Anyone whose job routinely puts them at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
  • People with end-stage renal disease
  • People living or working in facilities for people who are developmentally disabled
  • Anyone traveling to regions with moderate to high rates of hepatitis B
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with HIV infections

You should not have the vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction to an earlier dose or are allergic to yeast, because yeast is used to make the vaccine.

How and When Are the Vaccines Given?

For the hepatitis A vaccine:

Two doses of the vaccine given as shots six months apart are recommended for complete protection. Children should receive the first dose between 12 and 23 months of age. Children older than 2 can receive the first dose at their next doctor's visit.

If you are getting the vaccine because you are traveling, you should get it at least one month before you go. Other adults can start the vaccine when it appears they are going to be at risk of infection.

For the hepatitis B vaccine: 

Long-lasting immunity requires three to four doses of the HBV vaccine, depending on which type of vaccine is used, given as shots. Children should receive their first dose at birth and complete the series by 6 months of age. Typically, the second dose would be given when the infant is 1 month old and the third dose when the child is 6 months old.

Babies who are born to mothers infected with HBV should receive their first dose of the vaccine along with a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG), which is a blood protein with immune properties, within 12 hours of birth. The remaining shots in the series should be given over the next 1 to 15 months. When the series is completed, the baby should be tested to ensure that he or she is protected from the disease.

Catch-up vaccinations are recommended for children and adolescents who were never vaccinated or who did not get all three shots.

If you are an adult who wants to be vaccinated, you should discuss your options with your doctor. If you are considering both vaccines, ask your doctor about Twinrix, which combines hepatitis A and B vaccines into a single series.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on May 29, 2012

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