Updated August 2017

Recombivax HB® or Engerix®-B

Vaccine Benefits

Hepatitis B vaccine is 95% to 100% effective in preventing hepatitis B infection in people who receive a complete vaccine series pre-exposure. Hepatitis B vaccine protects against all subtypes of Hepatitis B virus that is circulating around the world.

As with any vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine may not protect 100% of persons immunized. The major determinant of seroprotection rate is age at vaccination. Children immunized between 5 and 15 years of age have the best observed response with 99% seroprotection rates. For adults, the response rate generally declines with age. The immune response also varies with the schedule used, the dosage, and the underlying health status of the person being immunized.

Persons who are immunocompromised (due to disease or treatment) may not obtain the expected immune response to the vaccine. The vaccine may not protect persons who are already infected with Hepatitis B at the time that the vaccine is given.

Hepatitis B vaccine is given as a two-dose series to Grade 7 students at the school clinics. Youth ages 11 to 15 years of age, only need two doses, given six months apart. Three doses are needed for persons 16 years of age or older; with a weak immune system, or at higher risk for infections due to a medication or chronic medical condition.

The vaccine is recommended before travel, for some career choices, and for cancer prevention. This vaccine can be given on the same day as other vaccines. Other hepatitis B containing vaccines include: Twinrix®, Twinrix®Jr., and INFANRIX hexa®

People Who Should Not Get the Vaccine

The vaccine is not recommended if you have had a serious reaction to any of the contents in the vaccine: alum, yeast protein and (latex in Recombivax® vaccine). As a precaution, delay getting the vaccine if you have a fever, until you are feeling better.

Vaccine Side Effects and Risks

The vaccine is safe, effective and well tolerated. Reactions are usually mild and go away within a few days. Common side effects include pain and redness where the vaccine was given, headache, fever, dizziness, nausea or feeling faint shortly after receiving the vaccine.

In rare cases, serious reactions such as trouble breathing, rash, swelling in the throat and face may occur and can be treated. These rare occurrences are usually temporary. Public health nurses observe students for 15 minutes following vaccination to monitor for any reactions.

Hepatitis B Infection

Hepatitis B virus can cause hepatitis, which is a liver infection. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is found mainly in the blood, vaginal secretions, semen and serous fluids of an infected person; it can also be found in a lower concentration in the saliva of an infected person.

HBV is transmitted through percutaneous or mucosal contact with infectious body fluids. For example, the virus can be spread through sexual contact, needle stick injuries or needle sharing, using contaminated personal care items (i.e. toothbrush, razor) and at birth from infected mother to infant. It can also be transmitted through bite wounds where there is broken skin, especially if the saliva is blood tinged.

The infection can take up to nine months to appear. Hepatitis B may be asymptomatic in up to 50% of adults and up to 90% of children. Symptoms include anorexia, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice. Acute illness may last up to 3 months and has a case fatality rate of 1% to 2%, which increases with age. Fulminant hepatitis and death may also occur in pregnant women and in infants born to infected mothers.

Some infections will have no symptoms and clear on their own. However, some infections never go away and can cause permanent liver damage, cirrhosis or liver cancer. Some individuals remain chronic carriers of hepatitis B infection in their blood and can continue to spread the infection to others. Chronic carriers are at increased risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver and cancer of the liver (hepatocellular carcinoma).

The risk of becoming a chronic carrier decreases with age; it is greatest (90% to 95%) in infected infants and about 5% in adults. The risk is also increased in immunocompromised persons who become infected.

For More Information

  • Talk to your healthcare provider
  • Call our Immunization Information Line at 416-392-1250

Other Languages

This information and consent forms for vaccination are available in the following languages. Email us at immunization@toronto.ca.

  • Arabic /  العربية
  • Bengali / বাংলা
  • Chinese / 中文
  • French / Français
  • Tamil / தமிழ்