Hepatitis B (Hep B) vaccine is one of the most common vaccines today. It is used to develop immunity to Hepatitis B, a heavily contagious disease caused by the virus of the same name.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis B is in decline in recent years. The figures have dropped from around 200,000 new infections a year in the 1980s to an average of 20,000 in 2016.
Contracting the virus doesn’t necessarily put you at risk of a chronic infection. For individuals above the age of five, the chances of that happening are between 5 and 10%. Younger children are at a much higher risk. Under the age of five, the estimation is 25-50%. Infants run a 90% chance of developing a chronic infection if they contract the Hepatitis B virus.
The Hep B vaccine is the most common prevention methods for Hepatitis B, with the first vaccine being approved in the United States in 1981. In 1986, the first recombinant version became available. But how long does Hep B vaccine last? This article will explore the question. The possible side effects, risk factors and risk groups will also be considered.
What Is Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a highly infectious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. It affects the liver and exists in two forms – acute and chronic. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with infected blood and other bodily fluids, as well as via sexual intercourse. It can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth.
Other ways to contract the virus include intravenous drug use, working in healthcare (it is especially likely to affect healthcare professionals who perform dialysis and blood transfusion), tattooing, acupuncture, unprotected sex (especially among homosexual men), and living with an infected individual. People with compromised immune systems and other chronic diseases are also at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
It is important to note that Hepatitis B can’t be transmitted via holding hands, kissing, breastfeeding, or eating with the same utensils.
Commonly, the chronic variation of the disease shows no obvious symptoms, though people suffering from it may eventually develop liver cancer and cirrhosis. On the other hand, acute Hepatitis B takes between 30 and 180 days to show the first signs. The most common symptoms include a loss of appetite, fever, weakness, the yellowing of eye whites and skin, dark urine, fatigue, pain in muscles and joints, and abdominal discomfort.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
The vaccine was introduced in the 1980s and has quickly become one of the most common and most recommended vaccines for infants. It is used around the world and has led to significant drops in Hepatitis B and liver cancer rates.
The vaccine contains small amounts of the Hepatitis B virus which a healthy human organism can fight off and develop immunity on its own. Once vaccinated, the immune system creates antibodies which can be activated in case the individual comes into contact with the virus.
In the UK, the Hep B vaccine is commonly offered to men who engage in sex with other men, as a part of routine sexual health checks. Also, many countries require medical staff (including doctors, nurses, and laboratory staff) to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B.
Exactly How Long Does Hep Vaccine Last?
Years ago, the standard 3-round Hepatitis B vaccine provided protection for up to seven years. However, today’s vaccines provide you with more than 20 years of protection.
This means that booster doses are largely unneeded these days. However, it is recommended for certain groups to take subsequent booster doses. At-risk groups include hemodialysis patients and other individuals with seriously compromised immune systems, such as people infected with HIV, chemotherapy patients, and recipients of hematopoietic stem-cell transplants.
Hepatitis B vaccines are considered safe for babies, children, teenagers, and adults. Also, they are considered to be safe for pregnant women and mothers who breastfeed. It is estimated that around 70 million adults and adolescents and around 50 million babies in the US have received the vaccine since 1982.
Common side effects include pain, tenderness, and redness at the place the shot was taken. That being said, serious side-effects happen very rarely.
Some 1990s studies linked the Hepatitis B vaccine to multiple sclerosis in adult patients. This research caused controversy and lowered the percentage of vaccinated infants in several countries. However, more comprehensive studies concluded that there was no connection between the vaccine and MS.
Who Should Get the Vaccine?
The Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants and children aged between 0 and 18. In the case of infants, it is recommended to take the vaccine at birth, while still in hospital. In cases where the vaccine was omitted at birth, it’s important to complete the 3-shot series as soon as possible. Adolescents and adults who haven’t received the vaccine on time are also recommended to complete the vaccination as soon as they can.
Members of the following at-risk groups should take special care to get vaccinated: healthcare workers, people in treatment for another STD, the partners and household members of individuals with HIV/AIDS, prison inmates, intravenous drug users (both current and former), sexually active people who are not in exclusive relationships, men who engage in sex with other men, residents and staff of homes and facilities that care for the developmentally challenged, and people with serious kidney diseases (including hemodialysis, pre-dialysis, home dialysis, and peritoneal dialysis patients).
Some US populations have a substantially higher rate of HBV infections. This includes Pacific Islanders, Alaska Natives, as well as immigrants and refugees from endangered territories and countries. People who belong to these endangered groups are highly advised to take the vaccine.
Who Shouldn’t Get the Vaccine
It is worth noting that individuals who had serious allergic reactions to the first dose of the vaccine should not proceed with the second and third. Also, those hypersensitive to yeast shouldn’t take the vaccine. People suffering from severe acute illnesses should wait until their condition is improved.
Hepatitis B is a highly contagious disease and there is no cure for it yet, though there are efficient treatments that help people manage the symptoms. Hep B can be transmitted in a wide variety of ways and it can affect even the healthiest individuals.
Hepatitis B vaccine is one of the most affordable and safest ways to prevent this vicious disease. It is recommended to everyone from newborns to adults who haven’t been vaccinated. It has almost no significant side effects, and it offers effective protection lasting well over 20 years.