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Hepatitis B Vaccination

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause inflammation and cirrhosis of the liver with serious long-term consequences. The virus is transmitted via blood or bodily fluids and can be prevented by vaccination. For many individuals the disease is asymptomatic, however it is also commonly mistaken for flu or gastroenteritis. 

Who should be vaccinated?

As part of the NHS routine immunisation schedule, and due to the low carrier rate in the Isle of Man, only groups that are at high risk of coming into contact with Hepatitis B will require the vaccine. These are outlined below:

  • Anybody who injects drugs or who has a partner who injects drugs
  • Homosexual and bisexual males with multiple partners or who have a history of STIs
  • Close family and sexual partners of somebody with Hepatitis B
  • Patients who receive blood transfusions or blood products
  • Patients undergoing renal dialysis
  • Prisoners
  • Long-term travellers to high risk countries
  • Babies born to infected or carrier mothers
  • Certain occupational groups:
    • Healthcare workers
    • Staff and residents of mental institutions
    • Morticians and embalmers
    • Some Local Authority Staff e.g. dustbin collectors and those involved in cleaning drains

Hepatitis B in babies and pregnancy

All pregnant women should be given a routine blood test for Hepatitis B as part of their antenatal care. If this returns a positive result, babies must be vaccinated within 24 hours of birth. This will be followed by further doses at 1, 2 and 12 months; at which point tests for infection will take place.

How does the vaccination process work?

In most cases you should personally arrange an appointment with your GP or the GUM clinic at Nobles Hospital to discuss whether you are at risk of developing Hepatitis B and to organise vaccination if eligible. However, if your risk factor is raised to occupational reasons, it is your employer’s responsibility to arrange vaccination on your behalf.

In order to ensure full protection, a course of three injections is needed over four to six months. Five-year boosters are also available for anybody who is thought to be at continued risk of infection.

The emergency Hepatitis B vaccine

If you have never been vaccinated and are exposed to the Hepatitis B virus, you should seek medical advice immediately. There still may be a benefit in receiving the vaccination at this stage, and in some circumstances this will be administered along with an injection of antibodies (HBIG).

N.B. Hepatitis B vaccination may be required for travel health purposes, for those travelling to certain areas of the world. This risk should be discussed with your GP/Practice Nurse or a travel health clinic during a pre-travel health consultation. This is not part of the NHS provision and may incur charges.

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