Employees who have routine exposure to human and non-human primate blood, blood products, cells, tissue and other potentially infectious material shall be offered the Hepatitis B vaccine series at no cost to themselves unless:
- They have previously received the entire vaccine series
- HBV Antibody titer testing has revealed they are immune
- The vaccine is contraindicated for medical reasons. The person has either had HBV, had a previous reaction to an HBV vaccine injection or is allergic to yeast.
Although your employer must offer the vaccine to you, you do not have to accept that offer. You may opt to decline the vaccination series, in which case you will be asked to sign a declination form (see Hepatitis B Vaccination Agreement/Refusal Form). Even if you decline the initial offer, you may choose to receive the series at any time during your employment thereafter, for example, if you are exposed on the job at a later date.
If you are exposed to blood or potentially infectious materials on the job, you may request a Hepatitis B vaccination at that time. If the vaccine is administered immediately after exposure it is extremely effective at preventing the disease.
The Hepatitis B vaccination is given in a series of three intramuscular injections. Over 90% of healthy adults and over 95% of infants, children, and adolescents (from birth to 19 years of age) develop adequate antibody responses. The vaccine is 80% to 100% effective in preventing infection or clinical hepatitis in those who receive the entire course of the vaccine. Prior authorization is needed to obtain the first injection. The second injection is given one month after the first; the third injection follows five months after the second. This series gradually builds up the body’s immunity to the Hepatitis B virus. Once vaccinated, a person does not need to receive the series again.
The Hepatitis B vaccine does not contain any live virus. The vaccine contains only particles of HBV called plasmids, which have a gene that codes for the surface antigen to induce the production of antibodies. These plasmids are grown on yeast cultures. Therefore, there is no danger of contracting the disease from getting the injections since no potentially infectious viral DNA or complete viral particles are used.
Protective antibodies appear to persist for 11 years or more following immunization. There are booster shots available and in some instances these may be recommended (for example, if there is an outbreak of Hepatitis B at a particular location). For adults and children with normal immune status, a booster injection of the vaccine are not recommended, nor is routine HBV antibody titer testing needed to assess immune status of the vaccine. The need for booster injections after longer than 11 years will continue to be assessed, as additional information becomes available.