Please visit the Vaccine Education Center for general information about hepatitis B and the vaccine.
Q. Why does my newborn need to get a vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease?
A. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for newborns for a few reasons:
Q. My daughter was given a dose of the hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital at birth. She was then given a combination vaccine that contained hepatitis B at two and four months. From what I have read she should not have gotten another dose of hepatitis B vaccine at four months. Is it okay to get an extra dose of vaccine?
A. Yes. Although extra doses of vaccine are not recommended, you can think of the extra dose as another chance for your daughter’s immune system to “see” the hepatitis B virus. A vaccine is not the only time your daughter’s immune system will “see” the virus or bacteria contained in it. She may be exposed to the virus or bacteria at school or the store or when visiting family or friends. An extra dose of vaccine is like one more exposure, except the difference is that the virus or bacteria in any vaccine has been made safe, so it won’t make your daughter ill.
Q. I am a nurse and have received 2 doses of hepatitis B vaccine. However, when I was tested, I did not have any antibodies. Is this common and am I more likely to get hepatitis B if I am exposed to it?
A. Not everyone responds to the hepatitis B vaccine. In fact, in a group of adults younger than 40 years of age who have received 2 doses of the vaccine only 75 of 100 will be protected. Following the third dose, this number will increase to 90 of 100. However, people over 40 years of age will be less likely to respond to the vaccine with increasing age.
Even if you do not respond to 3 doses, it does not mean that you are at high risk for hepatitis B. Because hepatitis B is transmitted primarily through blood and body fluids, using safety precautions while working will help decrease your chances of exposure to the disease. It is also possible that your body generated an immune response that may not be measured by the laboratory test, but that would provide some level of protection should you be exposed to hepatitis B. The CDC recommends that you get the 3-dose series again if you do not have a response to the first series.
Editor's note: Should this person be among the 10 of 100 adults that do not respond to the third dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, she will be reliant on those around her being immune to hepatitis B as an indirect way of protecting herself. In other words, she will be reliant on herd immunity.
Updated: January 2013
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