for Veterans and the Public
Should you get the hepatitis B vaccine?
There is a vaccine that protects you from getting hepatitis B. A vaccine is a shot of inactive virus that stimulates your natural immune system. The vaccine requires 3 shots over a 6 month period. After you get the hepatitis B vaccine, your body will make antibodies that will protect you against the virus. These antibodies are stored in your body for years and will fight off the hepatitis B virus if you are exposed to it.
You may need the hepatitis B vaccine if you
- have a chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis C;
- live in or were born in areas where hepatitis B is common (such as Asia, the Amazon, and the southern parts of eastern and central Europe);
- inject drugs;
- have a sex partner who has hepatitis B or have multiple sex partners;
- are a man who has sex with other men;
- share a household with someone who has hepatitis B;
- work in a high-risk profession, especially if you are a health care worker, emergency worker, police officer, firefighter, mortician, or work in the military;
- are an international traveler;
- are in prison;
- receive blood products or are on hemodialysis.
Certain ethnic groups have higher rates of hepatitis B virus infection. You may need the vaccine if you are African-American, Latino, Native American, Haitian, Alaskan Native, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, or Filipino.
If you already got vaccinated or if you are not sure, talk with your doctor (or health care provider). Your health care provider can check to see if you have antibodies against hepatitis B.
What should you do if you are exposed to the hepatitis B virus?
If you know you were recently exposed to the hepatitis B virus, you may get protection from a shot of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) within 24 hours after your exposure. This will protect you for three to six months, but it is also strongly recommended that you begin the three-shot hepatitis B vaccine series, starting within seven days of your exposure.