Hepatitis B is a type of viral illness that affects your liver, and in some cases, it can become chronic and lead to serious health problems. Since the main route of transmission for hepatitis B is through unprotected sex, this disease is considered to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, there are other ways in which you can get hepatitis B. Fortunately, hepatitis B vaccination is very safe and effective against this disease.
Keep reading this article to learn how long the hepatitis vaccine lasts, and if you’ll need to get vaccinated again in the future.
How long does the hepatitis vaccine last?
Hepatitis B is a viral illness that affects your liver, and it’s caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B can be spread through unprotected sexual contact, needle sharing, healthcare workplace accidents, and from mother to baby during childbirth.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people who become infected with hepatitis B will recover fully and clear the virus on their own — but in some cases, the infection can become chronic (more than six months from the initial infection) and lead to long-term health complications. Some of the complications of hepatitis B can include:
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms of an acute hepatitis B infection can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stools
- Abdominal pain
There’s no cure for a hepatitis B infection, but there are vaccines that can prevent it from the start. The hepatitis B vaccine is considered to be one of the safest and most effective vaccines available in the world.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the hepatitis B vaccine provides lifelong protection against illness and chronic hepatitis B infections. The immune system’s response to the vaccine has been shown to remain intact for more than 30 years after vaccination. And even if your antibody levels decline over time, you’ll still be protected against hepatitis B as long as your immune system is healthy.
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Who should get the hepatitis vaccine?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all babies receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth. This initial dose must be followed by 2 or 3 additional doses; the second shot should be given four weeks after the first shot, and the third shot should be given 8 weeks after the second shot.
According to The Hepatitis B Foundation, you don’t need to restart this series if you forgot to get one of the doses, as long as you continue the schedule within two years of your last recorded dose. But if you’re unsure about whether you got your full vaccination schedule as a child, or more than two years have passed, you can simply restart your hepatitis B vaccination from the first dose. It’s also safe for pregnant women to get the hepatitis B vaccine.
Although booster doses aren’t recommended for adults who received their full hepatitis B vaccination schedule as children, there are some instances in which you may need to get the vaccine again. According to the CDC, there are certain cases in which individuals with a high risk of hepatitis B are recommended to get another course of the vaccine. These situations include:
- Sexual partners of people with hepatitis B
- Sexually active people who aren’t in a long-term, monogamous relationship
- People with a history of other STDs
- People who use or have recently used injected drugs
- Healthcare personnel
- Patients undergoing hemodialysis
- Patients with diabetes
- People who are planning to travel to an area with high levels of hepatitis B
- People with HIV or hepatitis C
Additionally, the vaccine can be administered to any adult who requests it, even if they don’t have any of the risk factors that we mentioned above.
How effective is the hepatitis vaccine?
The hepatitis B vaccine is incredibly effective. According to the NHS, 9 out of every 10 people who get their full vaccination schedule will develop antibodies against this disease. There are certain factors that can impair your response to this vaccine, including:
- Suppressed immune system
- People who are older than 40
- Having advanced liver disease
- Receive hemodialysis
In these cases, your doctor could recommend that you receive an extra dose of the vaccine to increase its effectiveness. It’s very important to be protected against hepatitis B, since there’s no specific treatment available to treat this serious infection.
It’s also possible for hepatitis B symptoms to be asymptomatic, which makes it even more important for you to get tested against this disease. Getting tested for STDs regularly makes it much easier for you to protect yourself and your partner(s) from many serious health issues caused by these infections. You can learn more about STD testing at STDWatch.com.
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Hepatitis B - mayoclinic.org
Hepatitis B - my.clevelandclinic.org
AAMC Standardized Immunization Form 2020 Hepatitis B Vaccine – Frequently Asked Questions (Information from the CDC) - aamc.org
Hepatitis B - who.int
The 3-Shot Hepatitis B Vaccine – Do I Need to Restart the Series if I Am Off the Recommended Schedule? - hepb.org
Hepatitis B Vaccination of Adults - cdc.gov
Hepatitis B vaccine overview - nhs.uk