Since 2017 all babies born in the UK are vaccinated against hepatitis B for free. Hepatitis B is included in the routine 6-in-1 vaccination babies have at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age.
Babies born to mothers living with hepatitis B can get the virus when they are born. Vaccination stops this happening more than 9 times out of 10.
These babies also have a vaccine that just protects against hepatitis B. They have 3 doses, which are given within a day of birth and at 4 weeks and 1 year of age – so altogether they have 6 doses in total. They will also have a test at 1 year of age to check they do not have hepatitis B.
If their mother has high levels of the virus in her blood, babies can also have an injection of antibodies (called immunoglobulin or HBIG). This lowers the chances of them getting hepatitis B infection. They have this within 1 day of birth, usually at the same time as their first dose of vaccine.
If your baby misses any doses of vaccine, they should carry on with the rest of the doses as soon as possible.
People at risk of hepatitis B can get vaccinated for free. Around 9 in 10 adults who have the vaccine are protected from hepatitis B.
People who are close contacts of someone living with hepatitis B, such as a partner, child or other family member, should be vaccinated.
Pregnant women at high risk of hepatitis B are also offered vaccination. It is safe to have the vaccine while you are pregnant.
People who are likely to become very ill if they pick up hepatitis B can also be vaccinated. This includes people with other types of liver disease and people living with HIV.
To get vaccinated speak to your GP, local hospital or a sexual health (GUM) clinic. The vaccination is usually just for hepatitis B. Vaccination against both hepatitis A and B is also available. Most people have 3 doses of the vaccine, with 1 month between each dose.
You may have to pay if you need hepatitis B vaccination for a holiday and are not at high risk for another reason.
If your job puts you at risk of hepatitis B, for example you work in healthcare or a lab, your employer must pay for you to be vaccinated against hepatitis B. Healthcare workers will need to take a test to show they are immune. They should also have a booster around 5 years later.
Vaccines are mostly given to people before they could pick up the infection the vaccine guards against. Hepatitis B vaccine can also help your immune system fight off the virus if you have just picked it up. This is why babies whose mothers live with hepatitis B have extra doses of vaccine.
Reasons people have emergency vaccination include:
- A needlestick injury at work
- A person they have sex with has been diagnosed with hepatitis B
- An accident where their blood mixed with blood from someone who lives with hepatitis B
If you could have picked up hepatitis B and have not been vaccinated before, speak to a doctor as soon as possible. Emergency hepatitis B vaccination is usually 3 doses of vaccine given 1 month apart.
In some cases you may also have an injection of antibodies (immunoglobulin or HBIG) to boost your immune system. This works best when you have it within 24 hours. But you can have it up to 7 days after you may have picked up hepatitis B.
Published July 2023
Review due: July 2026