Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content


Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Get protected, get immunized.

  • Vaccines make your immune system stronger. They build antibodies to help prevent diseases.
  • Immunization is safe. It's much safer to get immunized than to get these diseases.​

What is the hepatitis B vaccine?

The hepatitis B vaccine protects against the hepatitis B virus (HBV).

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an infection in the liver that’s caused by a virus. Symptoms include poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting (throwing up), and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes). Some people don’t have any symptoms.

One out of 10 adults who are infected with hepatitis B have an infection that doesn’t go away (called a chronic infection):

  • The younger you are, the higher the chance of having a chronic infection. For example, more than 9 out of 10 babies who are infected with hepatitis B will have a chronic infection.
  • If you have a chronic hepatitis B infection, you have it forever. You can spread it to others, even if you don’t look or feel sick.
  • A chronic hepatitis B infection can lead to liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and death.

Around the world each year, 500,000 to 1.2 million people die from hepatitis B-related disease.


Who’s most at risk?

Anyone can get hepatitis B. Almost 1 out of 3 people who have it don’t have any risk factors.

You have the highest risk if:

  • the person who gave birth to you had hepatitis B when you were born
  • you live with someone who has a chronic hepatitis B infection
  • you are on dialysis
  • you live in or travel to countries with high rates of hepatitis B infection
  • you have a lifestyle that puts you at risk of the infection (such as having unprotected sex or sharing injection needles)


How does it spread​?

Hepatitis B spreads by having contact with the blood and body fluids of a person who is infected. It can spread through:

  • childbirth (if the person giving birth is infected)
  • shared needles, razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes
  • contact with equipment that isn’t cleaned properly (such as needles used for tattoos, body piercings, or acupuncture)
  • sex
  • human bites or open sores

Who should get the hepatitis B vaccine?

Grade 6 students can get the hepatitis B vaccine in school. If you were born in 1981 or later and didn’t get all the recommended doses in school, you can get the hepatitis B vaccine for free.


You should also get this vaccine if you’re at risk for hepatitis B because of:

  • certain health problems (such as liver or kidney problems)
  • the type of work you do (such as some healthcare workers)
  • your lifestyle (such as having unprotected sex or sharing needles)
  • possible contact with the virus (such as after having contact with someone else's blood)

Talk to a public health nurse to find out if you can get the hepatitis B vaccine for free.

You may also benefit from the vaccine if you travel to an area that has a high risk of hepatitis B. If you get the vaccine because of travel, it’s not free.

If you can’t get the vaccine for free, check with your health insurance provider to see if your plan covers the cost.

How many doses do I need?

Students in Grade 6 need 2 doses, 6 months apart.

Most other people need 3 doses over 6 months.

If you have certain health problems, such as kidney problems, or you've had an organ or stem cell transplant, you may need more doses. Ask your healthcare provider how many doses you need.

Are there other vaccines that protect against hepatitis B?

There are 2 other vaccines that protect against hepatitis B.


  • Twinrix protects against hepatitis A and B. People who travel often get this vaccine.
  • DTaP-IPV-Hib-HB protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, ​Haemophilus influenzae type b, and hepatitis B. In Alberta, children born on March 1, 2018, who are under age 2 years can get this vaccine. Children born outside of Alberta may have also had this vaccine. Check with a public health nurse or your healthcare provider if you aren’t sure if your child had a hepatitis B vaccine.

How well does the vaccine work?

If you’re healthy and get all the recommended doses, the protection for hepatitis B is 95% to 100%.

Where can I get the hepatitis B vaccine?

Grade 6 students can get the vaccine in school. Grade 9 students who missed getting the vaccine at the usual time can also get it in school. Parents and guardians will get information about hepatitis B and the vaccine. If you want your child to get the vaccine in school, you must fill out the consent form and return it to the school.

If you need the vaccine because of your work or what you study (such as some healthcare workers), talk to your workplace health and safety department or your student health services department.

If you can get this vaccine for free, contact the public health office in your area.

If you want the vaccine and need to pay for it, contact a travel health clinic or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Are there side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine?

There can be side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine, but they tend to be mild and go away in a few days. Side effects may include:

  • redness, warmth, swelling, bruising, itching, or feeling sore where you had the needle
  • a small lump where you had the needle
  • feeling tired or unwell or getting upset easily
  • a headache
  • a fever
  • not feeling hungry or not wanting to eat (poor appetite)
  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or loose stool (diarrhea)
  • a sore throat, cough, runny nose

It’s important to stay at the clinic for 15 minutes after your vaccine. Some people may have a rare but serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis happens, you will get medicine to treat the symptoms.

It’s rare to have a serious side effect after a vaccine. Call Health Link at 811 to report any serious or unusual side effects.


How can I manage side effects?

  • To help with soreness and swelling, put a cool, wet cloth over the area where you had the needle. 
  • There is medicine to help with a fever or pain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure what medicine or dose to take. Follow the directions on the package.
  • Children under the age of 18 years should not take aspirin (unless your doctor has told you to take it) because it can cause serious health problems if taken within 6 weeks of a vaccine.
  • Some people with health problems, such as a weak immune system, must call their doctor if they get a fever. If you’ve been told to do this, call your doctor even if you think the fever is from the vaccine.

Who should not get the hepatitis B vaccine?

You may not be able to get this vaccine if you:

  • have an allergy to any part of the vaccine
  • had a severe (serious) or unusual side effect after this vaccine or one like it

Check with your doctor or a public health nurse before you get the vaccine.

You can still get the vaccine if you have a mild illness, such as a cold or fever.

I have a fear of needles. How can I prepare for my immunization?

Many adults and children are afraid of needles. You can do many things before, during, and after immunization to be more comfortable. Visit Commitment to Comfort for tips to make immunization a better experience.

More information about immunization

Current as of: July 4, 2022

Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services