Hepatitis type B vaccine
The hepatitis type B vaccine is not part of the scheduled vaccination series, but it may be recommended for people who have a high risk of developing hepatitis B and those who are set to journey to countries where hepatitis B is common.
Who should have the hepatitis B vaccination?
The following groups of people may have an elevated threat of developing hepatitis B, so it is prudent to have the hepatitis B vaccination:
- Babies that are born to mothers who have hepatitis B.
- Patients who have blood transfusions on a regular basis.
- Friends and family members of people who have hepatitis B.
- People who have liver disease.
- People who work in high risk occupations, including doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and prison wardens.
- People who are travelling to countries where hepatitis B is common, including the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Families who are planning to adopt a child from a country where hepatitis B is common.
- People who have chronic kidney disease.
- People who work in the sex industry.
- People who have several sexual partners.
- Gay men.
- People who inject drugs.
The hepatitis B vaccine is available from your GP surgery, local GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics and sexual health clinics. The vaccine is given in three doses over a period of between 4 and 6 months. One month after the final dose a blood test is taken to check that the injections have been effective. Once you have had the immunisation and it has worked, you should be protected for a period of five years.
The hepatitis B injection is usually available free of charge for people who have a high chance of developing the disease. However, GPs may charge if the injection is given in relation to foreign travel.
Anyone who has been exposed to hepatitis B should be vaccinated and given an injection of immunoglobulin as soon as possible; Immunoglobulin is a form of antibody.
About hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a viral condition which impacts on the liver and causes it to become irritated. It is possible for Hepatitis B to be spread via sexual contact and via sharing needles.
It can take a long time (up to 160 days) for symptoms to develop, which is why many people may be unaware that they have been infected. Symptoms of hepatitis include:
- Loss of appetite.
- Flu-like symptoms and generally feeling unwell.
- Jaundice (when the skin and whites of the eyes appear yellowy).
Treatment for hepatitis B
In cases of acute hepatitis B, most people recover fully without any formal treatment after a period of 2-3 months and painkillers can help to ease symptoms. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B involves interferon injections (interferon prevents the virus from reproducing) and antiviral medication.