Hepatitis B vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine helps protect you against hepatitis B which causes inflammation of the liver, liver cancer or death.
Free vaccines through immunisation programs
For babies, the first dose of hepatitis B is administered within seven days following birth. Hepatitis B vaccination at birth: Why your baby needs it (PDF 132KB) provides valuable information for parents-to-be on why this immunisation is recommended.
A further three doses are given in a combination vaccine at 6 weeks, 4, and 6 months of age as part of the National Immunisation Program.
Other people may also be eligible to receive free immunisation. You may need a blood test before the first vaccine is given to check you have not already had exposure to the virus. For more information see High Risk Hepatitis B Immunisation Program, or talk to your doctor.
Others recommended to have the vaccine
Hepatitis B is recommended if you:
- work in an occupation that is at a risk of catching hepatitis B
- were born after May 2000 and have not completed or started the hepatitis B schedule
- are from an overseas country with a high-prevalence of hepatitis B
- are adopting a child from overseas who has hepatitis B
- have a household contact with of a person who has acute or chronic hepatitis B infection
- are having sex with a person who has hepatitis B
- are a person who injects drugs
- are an inmate of a correctional facility
- are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent
- are hepatitis C positive
- have chronic liver disease
- are a sex worker
- have a needle-stick injury
- are a haemodialysis patient
- have an immune disease including Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV)
- receive certain blood products
- are a person with a developmental disability
- have received a liver transplant
- are travelling overseas to regions where hepatitis B infection is common
- are homeless
- are a solid organ or a haemopoietic stem cell transplant recipient.
How the vaccine is given
Hepatitis B vaccine is given as an injection into the thigh if under 12 months of age, and into the top of the arm if over 12 months of age.
Interim clinical information and advice is available in the Global shortage of hepatitis B vaccine - update for Immunisations Providers and Health Care Workers
Possible side effects
Like any medications, the hepatitis B vaccine can have some minor and short lasting side effects.
Common side effects may include:
- pain, redness and swelling where you were immunised
- a low grade fever of 37 to 38 degrees Celsius
- feeling unwell or tired
- joint pain
Very rarely, you may experience a severe allergic reaction.
Any unexpected event following immunisation should be reported to SA Health.
Reducing the side effects
Many of the common side effects can be reduced by:
- drinking extra fluids
- taking paracetamol as per the instructions on the packet/bottle
- not overdressing if you are already hot.
Where to get immunised
To receive the vaccine contact your doctor, local council, community health centre or Aboriginal health centre to arrange an appointment.
For further information on immunisation providers, see the Immunisation services page.