Hepatitis B vaccine

Overview

The hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine’s offered to all babies as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine. Additional doses are offered to babies whose mothers have hepatitis B.

What’s hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. Many people with hepatitis B have no symptoms at all and don’t know they’re infected. Others have flu-like symptoms and yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

Hepatitis B infection can only be identified by a blood test. Many adults with hepatitis B recover fully but about 1 in 10 adults can remain infectious and spread the infection to others. About 1 in 5 of this group could develop serious liver disease later in life.

More about hepatitis B

How can you become infected with hepatitis B?

The hepatitis B virus is carried in the blood and other body fluids. There are 3 main ways infection is spread:

  • by sexual intercourse with an infected person without a condom
  • by direct contact with the blood of an infected person, for example by sharing toothbrushes and razors, from equipment used for tattooing and body piercing, and between drug users who share needles, syringes and other equipment
  • from an infected mother to her baby

Without immunisation, many babies born to mothers who’ve hepatitis B will become infected.

As many as 9 out of 10 babies who become infected with the hepatitis B virus will develop a long-lasting infection and may develop serious liver disease later in life.

If your baby’s fully immunised, they have a 95% chance of being protected from hepatitis B for life.

Could my partner and other children be at risk of catching hepatitis B?

Yes. It may be necessary for your partner and any other children to have blood tests and/or a course of the vaccine.

Will it be safe to breastfeed?

Yes, but your baby should still receive a full course of the vaccine.

Why should a baby be vaccinated?

Hepatitis B infection can be passed from an infected mother to her baby. Babies born to mothers with hepatitis B are at high risk of developing hepatitis B themselves. The best way to help protect a baby against hepatitis B is to immunise them from birth.

Which babies are eligible for the vaccine?

From October 2017, the hepatitis B vaccine became part of the routine immunisation programme offered to all babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks through the 6-in-1 vaccine.

As well as this, extra doses are offered to babies at birth who were born to mothers who have hepatitis B or live in a house where someone is infected with the virus.

When will my baby be immunised?

All babies are offered the 6-in-1 (DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB) vaccine when they’re 8, 12 and 16 weeks old as part of their routine baby vaccines. This vaccine protects against 6 diseases including hepatitis B (HepB).

Babies born to mothers who’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis B need extra doses of the vaccine for full protection. In addition to the doses offered to all babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, these babies will also be offered extra doses at birth, 4 weeks and 12 months. A blood test at 12 months to check for hepatitis B infection will also be offered.

It’s very important that an eligible baby is given the first dose of the vaccine in the hospital at birth. You’ll be informed by letter where and when you’ll get the additional immunisations. If you’re unsure please contact your midwife, local NHS immunisation team or GP.

Find out how to contact your local NHS immunisation team regarding your vaccination appointment

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the hepatitis B vaccine, contact:

The vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine is the best way to protect a baby from hepatitis B.

What vaccine is used?

All babies are offered the 6-in-1 vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. This vaccine helps protect against HepB. The vaccines used in Scotland for the 6-in-1 programme are the Infanrix hexa, powder and suspension for suspension for injection and Vaxelis injections. ​

Babies born to mothers with hepatitis B (or who live in a house where someone is infected with the virus) will be offered additional doses of hepatitis B vaccine, either Engerix B or HBVAXPRO.

How effective is the vaccine?

If a baby is fully immunised, they have a 95% chance of being protected from hepatitis B for life.

Course of immunisation

The full course consists of:

DoseTiming
FirstAt birth
SecondAt 4 weeks
ThirdAt 8 weeks*
FourthAt 12 weeks*
FifthAt 16 weeks*
SixthAt 12 months

*The doses at 8, 12 and 16 weeks are offered to all babies as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine in the routine immunisation programme.

If the baby’s mother has been diagnosed with hepatitis B, the baby will need a blood test at 12 months to check for hepatitis B infection.

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used. Their safety continues to be monitored while in use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

After the vaccine

After the vaccination there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Vaccines protect a baby against the risk of very serious infections and should not be delayed because of concerns about side effects.

Side effects

The baby may get a little redness, swelling, or tenderness where the injection was given. This will disappear on its own.

Fever can be expected after any vaccination. Fevers are usually mild, so you only need to give a dose of infant paracetamol if the child isn’t comfortable or is unwell. Read the instructions on the bottle very carefully.

Ibuprofen can also be used to treat a fever and other post-vaccination reactions. Read the instructions on the product packing very carefully. Giving ibuprofen at the time of vaccination to prevent a fever is not effective.

Remember, never give medicines that contain aspirin to children under 16.

In infants who do develop a fever after vaccination, the fever tends to peak around 6 hours after vaccination and is nearly always gone completely within 2 days.

Read more about treating a fever in children

If the baby has had the hepatitis B vaccine alongside the MenB vaccine

Fever is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine vaccines at 8 and 16 weeks. Infant paracetamol should be given to babies after each of these immunisation appointments.

Phone 999 immediately if:

  • the child is having a fit

If you think the child might be seriously ill, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical advice.

Phone your GP immediately if the child:

  • has a temperature of 39°C or above
  • still has a fever 48 hours after vaccination
  • you are concerned about their health

If your GP practice is closed, phone the 111 service.

Read more about the common side effects of immunisations that might occur in babies and young children up to 5 years of age.

Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Information in other languages and formats

Information leaflets from Public Health Scotland are available in

  • British Sign Language (BSL), Audio, Easy Read, and Large Print formats
  • English and other languages

You can request another format or language (for example Braille) by emailing phs.otherformats@phs.scot

Last updated:
12 July 2024

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