Hepatitis B vaccine


The hepatitis B vaccine is offered to all babies whose mothers have hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B infection can be passed from an infected mother to her baby. Babies born to mothers with hepatitis B are at high risk of developing hepatitis B themselves. The best way to help protect your baby against hepatitis B is to immunise them from birth. 

The information on this page is designed to inform you about the necessary immunisations which will help protect your baby.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. Many people with hepatitis B have no symptoms at all and don’t know they are infected. Others have flu-like symptoms and yellowing of the skin (jaundice).

Hepatitis B infection can only be identified by a blood test. Many adults with hepatitis B recover fully but about 1 in 10 adults can remain infectious and spread the infection to others. About 1 in 5 of this group could develop serious liver disease later in life.

How can you become infected with hepatitis B?

The hepatitis B virus is carried in the blood and other body fluids. There are three main ways by which infection is spread: 

  • By sexual intercourse with an infected person without a condom. 
  • By direct contact with the blood of an infected person, e.g. by sharing toothbrushes and razors; from equipment used for tattooing and body piercing; and between drug users who share needles, syringes and other equipment. 
  • From an infected mother to her baby. 

Why is hepatitis B infection particularly serious for babies?

Without immunisation, many babies born to mothers who have hepatitis B will become infected.

As many as 9 out of 10 babies who become infected with the hepatitis B virus will develop a long-lasting infection and may develop serious liver disease later in life.

If your baby is fully immunised, they have a 95% chance of being protected from hepatitis B for life.

How can I protect my baby?

Getting your baby immunised will help protect them from the hepatitis B virus. It's very important that your baby is given the first dose of the vaccine at birth. Some babies may also be given an injection of protective antibodies – you will be told if this is advised for your baby.

Your baby will need further doses of vaccine for full protection against infection.

The full course consists of:

  • the first dose at birth
  • the second dose at 4 weeks
  • the third dose at 8 weeks*
  • the fourth dose at 12 weeks*
  • the fifth dose at 16 weeks*
  • the sixth dose at 12 months.

*The doses at 8, 12 and 16 weeks are offered to all babies as part of combined vaccines in the routine immunisation programme. 

Your baby will need a blood test at 12 months to check for hepatitis B infection.

It's important for your baby to receive a full course of hepatitis B vaccine at the right time in order for it to work.

You will be informed by letter where and when to get these immunisations. If you are unsure please contact your midwife, health visitor or GP.

Are all babies offered protection against hepatitis B?

Yes, from October 2017, the hepatitis B vaccine became part of the routine immunisation programme offered to all babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks. 

As well as this, babies living with someone who has hepatitis B (who is not the mother) should get an extra dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth.

Could my partner and other children be at risk of catching hepatitis B?

Yes. It may be necessary for your partner and any other children to have blood tests and/or a course of the vaccine.

Is the hepatitis B vaccine safe?

The vaccine meets the safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. Millions of doses of the hepatitis B vaccine have been given to babies worldwide without serious side effects. 

Are there any side effects?

Your baby may get a little redness, swelling, or tenderness where the injection was given. This will disappear on its own.

Will it be safe to breastfeed?

Yes – but your baby should still receive a full course of the vaccine.

Where can I get more information?

If you have any other questions or concerns, talk to your midwife, practice nurse or GP, or call the NHS inform helpline on 0800 22 44 88 (textphone 18001 0800 22 44 88). The helpline is open every day and also provides an interpreting service.

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme. This can be done online by visiting www.yellowcard.gov.uk or by calling the Yellow Card hotline on 0808 100 3352 (available Monday to Friday – 10 am to 2 pm).


Last reviewed on 22 September 2017

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