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The hepatitis B vaccine is offered to people thought to be at increased risk of getting hepatitis B or having complications. It is also offered to children as part of the routine immunisation programme.
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is spread through blood and body fluids. It often does not cause any obvious symptoms in adults and usually passes in a few months without treatment. But in children it often continues for years and may eventually cause serious liver damage. Hepatitis B is less common in the UK than other parts of the world, but certain groups are at an increased risk of catching it. This includes people originally from high-risk countries, people who inject drugs, and people who have unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners.
The hepatitis B vaccine is given to help protect you or your baby against hepatitis B.
You can find more information on hepatitis B and the vaccine at NHS 111 Wales - Vaccinations (external site).
Hepatitis B vaccination is offered to all babies born after 1 August 2017 as part of the NHS routine vaccination schedule 6-in-1 vaccine. The 6-in-1 vaccine is offered to babies when they are eight, 12 and 16 weeks old.
The complete routine immunisation schedule includes information about routine and non-routine vaccinations.
Although the risk of catching hepatitis B is low in the UK, children and adults who are in groups that are at higher risk of catching hepatitis B are also offered the vaccine. If you have the infection when you are pregnant, your baby is at risk of developing hepatitis B and is given extra doses of the vaccine.
Hepatitis B infection in pregnant women may become severe for the mother and may cause a long- lasting infection for the baby, so it's really important that pregnant women who are at high risk of hepatitis B infection get vaccinated.
There is no evidence of any risk from vaccinating pregnant or breastfeeding women against hepatitis B, as it is an inactivated (killed) vaccine.
During pregnancy, all women are offered screening for hepatitis B. Babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B need to be given extra doses of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, at four weeks, and at 12 months.
Some mothers infected with hepatitis B are considered especially high risk because they are highly infectious. Babies born to these high-risk mothers should receive an injection of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) at birth. HBIG is made from blood and contains antibodies to hepatitis B. It gives fast protection but is not long-lasting. These babies will also need a hepatitis B vaccination to give them longer-term protection.
All babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B should have a blood test at 12 months to check if they have become infected with hepatitis B.
Everyone who is in a high-risk group is also offered the hepatitis B vaccine. These include the following.
People who have chronic kidney disease (stage 4 and 5, including haemodialysis)
People who have chronic liver disease (for instance, those who have severe liver disease, such as cirrhosis of any cause, or have milder liver disease and may share risk factors for being infected with hepatitis B, such as people with chronic hepatitis C)
People who receive regular blood or blood products (for example, people with haemophilia, thalassaemia or other chronic anaemia), or their carers who give these products
People who inject drugs
Sexual partners, children or other close family or household contacts of people who inject drugs
People who change sexual partners frequently, are men who have sex with men or sex workers
Household, close family or sexual contacts of a person with hepatitis B infection
Members of a family adopting a child from a country with high or medium levels of hepatitis B infection
Close family members of, or anyone who shares a household with, short-term foster carers who receive emergency placements
Close family members of, or anyone who shares a household with, permanent foster carers who accept a child known to be infected with hepatitis B
Inmates of prisons in the UK, including if on remand
People who live in accommodation for those with learning disabilities
Adults or children attending day care, schools and centres for those with learning disabilities and assessed as being at regular risk of infection through the skin (such as through biting or being bitten)
People who are at increased risk of hepatitis B because of their job
People who are travelling to countries that have high levels of hepatitis B
GP practices and sexual-health clinics usually provide the hepatitis B vaccination free of charge if you are in an at-risk group. For babies born to high-risk mothers, their first dose is likely to be offered by a midwife or doctor at the hospital where they are born. If your job puts you at risk of hepatitis B infection, it is your employer's responsibility to arrange a vaccination for you. If you are travelling to a high-risk country, your GP may be able to give you the vaccine or you may need to go to a travel health clinic (the cost of the vaccine may not be covered by the NHS).
Hepatitis B vaccines are usually well tolerated. The most common side effects are soreness and redness at the site of the injection.
Other reactions are rare. For more information on common and rare side effects, see the following.
If you are concerned about symptoms, call NHS 111 Wales (external site). Calls to NHS 111 Wales are free from landlines and mobile phones.
You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card scheme. You can do this online at yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk or by calling the Yellow Card scheme hotline on 0800 731 6789 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).
If you would like to learn more about hepatitis B and the vaccine, see the list of leaflets below. You can also call NHS 111 or your GP practice for advice if you have any questions.
If you are considering this vaccine as a part of travel health protection, see our Travel Vaccinations page.