Hepatitis B vaccine frequently asked questions

Who should be vaccinated?

For babies, the first dose of hepatitis B should be administered at birth or within seven days following birth. A further three doses are given in a combination vaccine at six weeks, four, and six months of age as part of the National Immunisation Program. Adults are recommended to receive a three dose course of hepatitis B vaccine, if they are not immune.

Does the hepatitis B vaccine work for everyone?

Nearly all babies and more than 90% of adults get protection from hepatitis B after completing the recommended course of hepatitis B vaccines.

Where can I get the hepatitis B vaccine?

Contact your doctor, local council, community health centre or Aboriginal health centre to arrange an appointment. See the Immunisation services page for more information.

Why do all newborn babies need to be immunised against hepatitis B at birth?

The birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine is recommended to prevent:

  • the mother from infecting her baby if the mother is living with hepatitis B 
  • the baby from contracting the disease from household members or close contacts who are living with hepatitis B.

Is it safe to give my newborn baby the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine?

Yes, the hepatitis B vaccine is safe to be given to a newborn.

The hepatitis B vaccine is not a live vaccine and provides protection without causing disease. It is produced in yeast cells and is free of animal or human blood products. It does not interfere with breastfeeding.

Extensive experience shows that the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine is very well tolerated by newborn babies.

What if my baby is premature?

Premature babies are more at risk of developing infections and should be immunised at the recommended time. Babies born less than 32 weeks gestation or weighing less than 2,000 grams at birth will need an extra dose of the vaccine at 12 months of age. Your doctor or nurse should tell you if your baby will need an extra dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

How many doses of hepatitis B vaccine do babies receive?

With your consent, your baby will be given a dose of the hepatitis B vaccine before you leave hospital, preferably within 24 hours of birth. Your baby will then be given three more doses within the first 12 months of life to be fully immunised.

If my baby does not receive the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine, when can it be given?

The benefits of the birth dose can still be achieved if the hepatitis B vaccine is given within the first seven days of life. If the vaccine is not given within this time frame, your baby may start the course of hepatitis B vaccines (in combination with other childhood vaccines) beginning at six weeks, then at four and six months of age.

Will further booster doses be required for my baby?

At present, babies who have been fully immunised do not need booster doses of the vaccine.

What if my baby is unwell?

Immunisation should only be postponed if a baby is very unwell or has a high temperature of 38.5 degrees Celsius or higher.

How do I know that I am protected against hepatitis B?

If you have never been tested for hepatitis B, your doctor can arrange a blood test to check your hepatitis B status before you are given the vaccination course. The prescreening blood test will check you have not already had exposure to the hepatitis B virus.

If you have had a full course of hepatitis B vaccination in the past then there is a good chance that you are protected now. Also, if you have had hepatitis B before and cleared the infection you are immune to hepatitis B.

After vaccination, a post vaccination blood test is available to check that the vaccine has been effective. Your doctor can order this test for you. This blood test is not routinely recommended for children as the hepatitis B vaccine is highly effective.

How many doses do I need and how soon will I be protected once I start the vaccination course?

Adults should have a course of three doses over six months. Most people gain some protection after the first and second dose, but maximum protection will be received after the third dose.

You can have a blood test four weeks after the final dose of the hepatitis B vaccine to make sure you have developed adequate protective levels.

If the vaccine does not work for me, what can I do to protect myself and others against hepatitis B?

If the vaccine does not work for you, your doctor might offer you further doses of the vaccine. If blood tests then show that you still do not have immunity to hepatitis B you should reduce your risks of being exposed to hepatitis B by:

  • practicing safe sex (use a condom)
  • washing hands (PDF 1.38MB) after touching blood or body fluids
  • wearing disposable gloves if giving someone first aid, or cleaning up blood or body fluids
  • not sharing toothbrushes, razors, needles, syringes, personal hygiene items and grooming aids or any object that may come into contact with blood or body fluids
  • using new and sterile injecting equipment for each injection
  • covering all cuts and open sores.

If you do get exposed to the hepatitis B virus then you will need to be given hepatitis B immunoglobulin by your doctor as soon as possible.

If I began the course and never completed it, do I need to start the course again?

No, you should continue on from your last dose. Adults should receive three doses in total.

You can have a blood test four weeks after the final dose of the hepatitis B vaccine to make sure you have developed adequate protective levels.