According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 600,000 people die every year as a result of hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection and its chronic consequences.
Immunisation requires three individual doses, administered by injection. The second injection is given 4 weeks after the first and the third injection needs to follow 5 months later. This is the recommended schedule for those in need of immunisation for occupational health.
For those travelling at short notice an accelerated course can be provided. The second injection can be given after 7 days followed by the third injection at least 14 days after the second.
Healthcare workers are advised to carry out a blood test after the immunisation is completed, to check whether the vaccination was successful. Travellers are at a lower risk of contracting hepatitis B and do not require a blood test.
Those thought to have a continued high risk of infection should consider having a booster after 5 years. Boosters should also be administered after exposure to the infection. The duration of protection provided by the vaccine is still yet to be established, it is however thought that it could be lifelong immunity but this is dependent on immune response.
The hepatitis B vaccine can cause mild side effects, such as redness and soreness at the injection site. Occasionally, patients feel tired within the first few days after the injection.