Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection passed person-to-person through blood and other bodily fluids. One of the common ways to get hepatitis B is mother-to-child transmission. Hepatitis B can be passed to babies during childbirth, which is why newborns are given a hep B vaccine at birth.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include:
- abdominal pain
- joint pain
- weakness and fatigue
- yellowing of the skin and the whites of eyes (jaundice)
A hepatitis B infection can be acute (lasting less than 6 months) or chronic (lasting 6 months or longer). Acute hepatitis B can lead to chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B can last a lifetime and lead to serious illnesses such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. The younger you are when you get hepatitis B, the more likely it will become chronic. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but vaccines can prevent it.
The vaccine is 80 – 100% effective when a person completes the series. The series is between 2 and 4 doses, depending on which vaccine you get.
The hepatitis B vaccine is very safe. Like any vaccine or medication, there can be side effects, but they are usually mild and go away on their own. The most common side effect is soreness in the arm where the vaccination is received.
Mild vaccine reactions are normal and signs the body is mounting an immune response to protect against hepatitis B.
The hep B vaccine is a series of 2-4 doses depending on which vaccine your child gets. They should get the vaccine at:
- 1-2 months
- 4-6 months
There should be at least 4 weeks between the first and second dose and at least 8 weeks between doses 2 and 3.
Talk to your healthcare provider about what other vaccines your family needs.
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