Hepatitis B is spread easily during sex, so getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself. The vaccine is safe and really effective at preventing hepatitis B.
How does the hepatitis B vaccine series work?
The vaccine protects you from the hepatitis B virus by getting your body's immune system to make antibodies. Those antibodies protect you by fighting off the virus if it ever gets into your body.
Usually, the vaccine is spaced out into three different shots — called a hepatitis B vaccine schedule. One month after your first shot, you get the second shot. Six months after your first shot, you get the third shot. If you miss your second or third dose, get it as soon as you remember.
The hepatitis vaccine is super effective. It’s worked really well to lower the number of people who get hepatitis B every year.
Who should get the hepatitis B vaccine?
Most babies now get the HBV vaccine from their doctor as a regular part of their checkups. (Routine vaccination of babies has been recommended since 1991.)
Hepatitis B is really contagious. You can easily get it through unprotected sex or contact with infected blood or urine. So if you’ve never had the vaccine, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about getting it.
How safe is the hepatitis B vaccine?
The hepatitis B vaccine is totally safe for most people. Most babies, kids, and adults have no problems at all when they get the vaccine. In fact, more than 100 million people in the U.S. have gotten the hepatitis B vaccine.
Like all medicines, the hepatitis B vaccine may have some mild side effects: soreness, change in skin color, swelling, or itching around where you get the shot, or a slight fever. But these things aren’t serious and usually go away pretty quickly. There’s an extremely small risk of having an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
If you get dizzy, feel your heart beating really fast, have a high fever, feel weak, break out in hives, or have trouble breathing, get medical help right away. But again, the risk of having an allergy is super small.
You CAN’T get hepatitis from the hepatitis vaccine.
If I already have hepatitis B, can the vaccine treat it?
No. The hepatitis vaccine prevents hepatitis, but doesn’t cure it if you already have it. If you have hepatitis B, there are other treatment options.
However, if you recently got exposed to the hepatitis B virus and you haven’t had the vaccine yet, tell your doctor right away. The vaccine and possibly other treatment can reduce your chances of getting hepatitis B if you get it within 2 weeks after you came into contact with the virus. The sooner you seek care after being exposed to hepatitis B, the better, so try to get there right away.
Where can I get a hepatitis B vaccine?
You can get the hepatitis B vaccine at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, the health department, and your local Planned Parenthood health center.