WebMD > 

Your Guide to Vaccines for Hepatitis B: What, Why, Who, and Where?

What to Know About Getting the Hepatitis B Vaccine

This article is for people who want to learn, or learn more, about hepatitis B vaccines for adults. The goal of this activity is to help you talk to and work with your doctor and healthcare team about hepatitis B vaccination.

You will learn about:

  • What hepatitis B is and complications it can cause

  • What the hepatitis B vaccine is and if it's safe and effective

  • Why getting the hepatitis B vaccine matters

  • Who can get a hepatitis B vaccine and where

  • Talking to your doctor and healthcare team, and questions you can ask

Test Your Knowledge

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Once infected, HBV attacks your liver causing inflammation (swelling) and damage that affects how well it works. This can lead to serious long-term complications (additional problems) and even be life-threatening.

Hepatitis B spreads from person to person when the body fluids of someone who is living with hepatitis B -- such as their blood, saliva, semen, or vaginal fluids -- enter your body.

This can happen by:

  • Direct physical contact, such as by sexual activity

  • Contact with body fluids, blood, or cuts and open wounds

  • Sharing personal items like toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, earrings or body piercing jewelry, glucose monitors, or needles

  • During birth when a pregnant woman passes it to her baby

What Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Hepatitis B is called a vaccine-preventable disease, or VPD, because it can be prevented with a vaccine.

Hepatitis B vaccines work with your immune system, your body's natural defense system. Once given, the vaccine triggers your immune system to make antibodies that help fight off infection. These antibodies will then stay in your system and can help defend against HBV if you're exposed to it later. This gives you immunity (protection) against a future infection.

Why Get a Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Many people who are living with hepatitis B don't know they're infected because they feel okay and haven't been tested. But you can still get liver damage and complications and spread hepatitis B to others, even if you don't have any symptoms.

Complications from hepatitis B can include:

  • Liver scarring (fibrosis) that can lead to severe scarring called cirrhosis

  • Liver cancer (carcinoma)

  • Liver failure where your liver stops working

  • Kidney disease and blood vessel problems

  • Death

But hepatitis B vaccines have been shown to be effective (work) at preventing hepatitis B. And getting vaccinated is the best way to help protect yourself and others and lower the number of HBV infections.

Who Can Get a Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Anyone can get hepatitis B at any age. But vaccines to help protect against hepatitis B are available for people of all ages.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for:

  • Infants

  • Children and teens younger than 19 who were not vaccinated as infants

  • Adults 19 through 59

  • Adults 60 or older who have risk factors for hepatitis B. Those who don't have risk factors may also get the vaccine in order to be protected

Even if you don't have any risk factors for hepatitis B, you can still be vaccinated if you weren't before.

Where Can You Get a Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Ask your doctor or healthcare team member about where you can get your hepatitis B vaccine. Many doctor's offices, health clinics, and pharmacies can vaccinate you.

You can also check your state or local health department's website about getting vaccinated against hepatitis B. Some clinics offer free or low-cost testing and vaccines, as well as patient navigators who can provide you with support.

Talking to Your Doctor or Healthcare Team Member

Knowing if you've been vaccinated against hepatitis B is important. Being vaccinated helps protect both you and others and helps reduce the number and chances of HBV infections overall as well.

If you're not sure if you've been vaccinated, you can ask your doctor or another healthcare team member, such as your pharmacist or nurse. And if you haven't, you can talk to them about getting vaccinated.

Hepatitis B vaccines are usually given as a series of 2, 3, or 4 shots, depending on which vaccine and who's getting it. You'll need to get all shots in the series to be fully protected. So be sure to ask about the right schedule for your vaccine series and what to do if you miss or need to reschedule a shot.

Caroline talks about how she found out about the hepatitis B vaccine and making the decision to get vaccinated to be protected.

Are Hepatitis B Vaccines Safe?

Hepatitis B vaccines have been shown to be safe. And they don't contain any live HBV, so you can't get hepatitis B from the vaccine.

Like all medicines, hepatitis B vaccines may have side effects. Most that can happen are minor and will go away on their own, such as soreness where the shot was given, fever, headache, and fatigue (tiredness). The risk of serious problems from a hepatitis B vaccine is very small. Be sure to ask your doctor, healthcare team member, or the person giving you the shot about all side effects that may happen and how to manage them.

Questions to Ask

Questions you can ask your doctor or healthcare team member about hepatitis B vaccines can include:

  • Have I been vaccinated against hepatitis B?

  • What hepatitis B vaccines are available, and which do you recommend for me?

  • Where can I get a hepatitis B vaccine?

  • How many shots will I need and when?

  • What can I expect when I get the vaccine?

  • What else can I do to help protect myself and others?

  • Where can I find more information and resources?

Test Your Knowledge

Survey Question


You have successfully completed the program Your Guide to Vaccines for Hepatitis B: What, Why, Who, and Where?

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

Hepatitis B FAQs

Hepatitis B Vaccination

Hepatitis B Vaccine: What You Need to Know

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Karen Badal, MD, MPH

Senior Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC. Karen Badal, MD, MPH, has no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC. Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has no relevant financial relationships.


Share this:

URAC: Accredited Health Web Site HonCode: Health on the Net Foundation AdChoices