Vaccines make your fight against microbes like virus, bacteria, etc more effective. Hepatitis B virus is one such microbe that infects your liver. Vaccines are administered to prevent this medical condition. But, you may also want to know the side effects of this vaccine.

Hepatitis B virus leads to a medical condition known as hepatitis B which affects the liver. It is known to last several weeks but it can also become a chronic and severe medical condition. Hepatitis B is prevented by administering a vaccine in three doses. After administering the first dose, second and third doses are given in one month and six months respectively.

When to administer hepatitis B vaccine?

First dose to new born babies is administered during the time of birth and remaining doses are completed within 10 to 18 months. But if the vaccine had not been administered to children, it can still be provided till the child reaches 19 years of age. For kids aged between 12 to 15 years, it may also be administered in two doses instead of three.

It can also be provided to women who are pregnant as well as adults of any age. Adults who work or live in conditions where risks of an infection are high, this vaccine is strongly recommended.

However, if you have a medical history of hypersensitivity or allergies to yeast or to this vaccine- it is not recommended to you.

Are doses of hepatitis B vaccine safe?

From 1982 – ever since it became a standard drug – this vaccine has been administered onto more than 90 million people in North America. Almost all of them who received a shot of this vaccine never reported extreme or acute side effects.

Renowned health organizations such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that risks of not having doses of this vaccine are higher than risks associated with hepatitis B.

When hepatitis B vaccine is administered, you will be provided with all needful information on likely side effects. You will also be informed about the possibility to experiencing some severe side effects that may occur rarely, which may need medical support.

So, what are the side effects of hepatitis B vaccine?

A majority of people have not reported major side effects upon receiving a shot of this vaccine. However, a few common reactions side effects include a sore arm (this may last only for 1 or 2 days), swelling, itchiness, redness and discoloration of injected site. Other minor side effects include headache, drowsiness, tiredness, nausea, runny nose, mild fever and soreness of throat, etc.

On the other hand, if you are experiencing acute side effects such as difficulties to pass stools, gasping for breath, blurring of eyesight, fainting, tremors, nervousness, etc. you are advised to see your doctor without delay.

A few people have also reported (very rarely though) signs and symptoms such as rashes on skin, excessive sweating, loss of body weight, insomnia, convulsions, cramping of abdominal muscles, swelling of facial areas (especially your nose or eyes), etc. Upon experiencing these signs, it is strongly recommended to seek medical attention on an emergency basis.

In general, if you notice any physical changes or any immediate allergic reactions – i.e., after administration of this vaccine, seek medical attention or call 911 as soon as possible. Not all people administered with hepatitis B vaccine may experience same side effects.

Efficacy of hepatitis B vaccine

Once administered, hepatitis B vaccine can offer needful defense to you for a minimum of 30 years. Its efficacy is found to be more than 88% in immunizing new born babies, children as well as adults against the dangers of hepatitis B virus.

Four vaccines are allowed for use in the United States. These are

Pediarix – This received FDA approval in 2002. It is mainly administered onto new born babies and children, aged upto 6 years of age. This is known to prevent incidence of medical conditions such as diphtheria, hepatitis B, pertussis, polio and tetanus.

Twinrix – This vaccine received FDA clearance in 2001. It is known to immunize your body and avert the likely incidence of hepatitis A as well as hepatitis B. This vaccine is administered onto younger adults (aged 18 years) as well as adults.

Engerix–B – In 1989, food and drug administration (FDA) approved this vaccine. It is administered onto people all age groups, i.e., adults and infants alike.

Recombovax HB – This vaccine has FDA clearance from 1983 onwards. This is also administered to people of varying age groups. It is popular among adults who are undergoing hemodialysis sittings.

Efficacy as well as risks associated with vaccines is monitored continuously. Mechanisms through which safety of vaccines is monitored include vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS), clinical immunization safety assessment (CISA) and vaccine safety datalink (VSD).

These mechanisms closely assess safety levels, side effects and near-fatal or fatal incidents reported upon after administering these vaccines. Often times, assessments may last for a longer span – extending to several years. Over the test period, results are assessed across all age groups. In one review that lasted about 4 years, side effects experienced among infants were assessed. This review reported no incidents of medical conditions or problems to infants triggered by the administration of hepatitis B vaccine.

These reviews and studies focus on multiple parameters such as allergies, likely problems associated with normal functioning of other organs (like brain) and also include range of side effects commonly experienced (such as fever, assessment of sepsis, etc). These studies have also reported that there has been no need for additional medical interventions due to administration of this vaccine.

So, if you have heard of people reporting the side effects caused by a shot of hepatitis B vaccine, consider such instances as rare cases. It is unlikely that you may have similar side effects. When your doctor recommends hepatitis B vaccine to you, always remember the benefits associated with prevention of hepatitis B as against milder risks of side effects associated with administering this vaccine.

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