The Hepatitis B vaccine is a safe and effective 3-shot series that protects against HBV. If you have HBV, the vaccine will do you no good, but if you do not have HBV, vaccination is a great way to protect yourself. The recommended schedule for the hepatitis B vaccine is to receive the first shot, followed in one month by the second shot. Six months following the first shot, you should receive your third and final shot of the series. If you are committed to ensuring that you have built up adequate immunity, you can have your anti-HBs (HBsAb) titres checked 4-6 weeks following the last shot of the HBV vaccine series. If your immunity is greater than 10 IU/l, then you have adequate immunity which is thought to confer lifetime immunity, but studies so far show 20 years. This is because these studies are on-going! Please note that checking anti-HBs titres is not generally recommended for all vaccine recipients, with the exception of those that might be at greater risk of infection. This includes but is not limited to health care workers, those with sexual partners with HBV, and those living in a household where someone is infected with hepatitis B. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be at higher risk and need to have your titres checked.
So what happens if you go for shot one, followed by shot two in a month, but you never get to shot three? The minimum length of time between the three shots in the series is what is noted above: 0, 1 month, and 6 months. There is an accelerated schedule, but this is the schedule recommended for the shortest amount of time, with the best immune response for the general population. However, if you don’t get to shot three of the series for another two years, or if you never got to shot two, you can resume right from where you left off, and continue without the need for repeating the series. Once again if you would like to ensure that you have adequate immunity, you can have your anti-HBs titres (HBsAb) checked 4-6 weeks following the last shot of the series to be sure it is greater than 10 IU/l.
What happens if you don’t have your vaccine records, and you have no idea if you ever got shot 1 or 2, and you just want to repeat the series? There is no concern with repeating the HBV vaccine series, so if you are unsure, please start the series from shot 1.
Be sure you and your loved ones vaccinated are against hepatitis B so you can be HBV free for life!