Hepatitis B vaccine
Vaccines to protect against hepatitis B are safe and work really well. Everyone should get vaccinated against hepatitis B from birth. Adults who are more likely to get hepatitis B should also get the vaccine.
The vaccine for hepatitis B has been around since 1982. People in Australia who are more likely to get hepatitis B have been able to get the vaccine since 1986.
How do you get the vaccine?
You can get the hepatitis B vaccine from your GP. You may also be able to get it from other health services. You can even get it at some schools or your workplace, but you should check first.
Most people need 3 doses of the vaccine over 6 months. You must get all of the doses to make sure you are safe from hepatitis B. The number of doses and time between each dose may vary because of:
- your age
- whether you have other health conditions
- whether you are having the vaccine for travel
- whether you need to have a faster hepatitis B course e.g. you’re about to travel to a country with a high rate of hepatitis
If you are at greater risk of getting hepatitis B, you should have a blood test before getting the vaccine. This will check whether you already have hepatitis B or if you are already immune.
Are there any side effects?
Most people don’t get any side effects from the vaccine. But some people feel pain in the spot where they had the vaccine. Some people also have a mild fever after getting it.
You cannot get hepatitis B from the vaccine.
How much does it cost?
The cost of the hepatitis B vaccine varies around the country. Some people can get the vaccine for free:
- people under 20 years old
- refugees and humanitarian entrants
- people who live with someone who has hepatitis B
You will need to pay for the cost of seeing the doctor to get your vaccine, unless the doctor bulk bills.
List of people who should get the hepatitis B vaccine
The Australian Immunisation Handbook (ATAGI 2021) says that if you are in one of the groups below, you should get tested to check whether you already had hepatitis B. If haven’t had hepatitis B then you should get the vaccine.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- People coming from countries with higher levels of hepatitis B
- People who are more likely to get hepatitis B because of their job, eg:
- people who work in any job that involves direct patient care, handling human tissue, blood or bodily fluids, or used needles and syringes
- healthcare workers
- police, members of the armed forces, emergency services staff, and correctional facility staff
- funeral workers, embalmers
- staff involved in the care of people with developmental disabilities
- workers who carry out procedures that penetrate the skin, such as tattooists and body piercers
- Sex industry workers
- Other groups:
- household or other close contacts of people with hepatitis B
- people who have had sex with people with hepatitis B
- men who have sex with men
- people who use drugs using needles
- inmates of correctional facilities.
Who should get the vaccine?
- Children and teenagers who have not had the vaccine before
- People who are immunocompromised, including:
- people living with HIV
- dialysis patients and people with very poor kidney function
- people about to get an organ transplant
- people who have had a stem cell transplant.
- People with other medical conditions, including:
- people with chronic liver disease or hepatitis C
- people who use certain blood products
- people with developmental disabilities who attend day-care facilities.
- People travelling to countries with higher levels of hepatitis B.