Ask the Experts: Hepatitis B: For Adults (Including HBV Screening)

Results (33)

Twinrix is licensed as a 3-dose series for people age 18 years and older. If Twinrix is not available or if you choose not to use Twinrix to complete the hepatitis A (HepA) and hepatitis B (HepB) series, you should do the following:

  • If 1 dose of Twinrix was given, complete the series with 2 adult doses of HepA and 2 adult doses of HepB.
  • If 2 doses of Twinrix were given, complete the schedule with 1 adult dose of HepA and 1 adult dose of HepB.

Another way to consider this is as follows:

  • A dose of Twinrix contains a standard adult dose of HepB and a pediatric dose of HepA. So, a dose of Twinrix can be substituted for any dose of the HepB series but not for any dose of the HepA series.
  • Any combination of 3 doses of adult HepB or 3 doses of Twinrix is a complete series of HepB vaccine
  • One dose of Twinrix and 2 doses of adult HepA is a complete series of HepA
  • Two doses of Twinrix and 1 dose of adult HepA is a complete series of HepA
Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

In April 2022, CDC published updated recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the use of hepatitis B vaccine (HepB) in adults. In addition to routine universal childhood HepB vaccination, CDC now recommends catch-up vaccination of all adults younger than age 60 years not previously vaccinated. CDC also recommends that healthcare providers offer HepB vaccination to all adults age 60 or older and routinely given to any adult in this age group known to be at risk. Access the ACIP recommendation: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/pdfs/mm7113a1-H.pdf.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

In March 2023, CDC published updated hepatitis B screening and testing guidelines for all adults age 18 years or older. In brief, it is recommended that all adults should be serologically screened for hepatitis B at least one time using a triple panel test, regardless of vaccination history. The triple panel includes antibody
to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs), total core antibody (anti-HBc), and surface antigen (HBsAg). Pregnant people should be tested for HBsAg during each pregnancy, regardless of testing or vaccination history. After the one-time screening, unvaccinated, susceptible individuals at ongoing risk should be tested periodically for infection. In addition, anyone who requests testing should be tested. Access the CDC recommendations: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/72/rr/pdfs/rr7201a1-H.pdf.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Anyone can be infected with hepatitis B. Everyone can benefit from knowing their status and being protected. The majority of adults reported to CDC in recent years with acute hepatitis B have no reported risk factor for infection. Risk factors for exposure are so numerous and diverse that most adults, even those who don’t think of themselves as at risk, may find themselves at risk at some point in their lives.

Infants and children have been routinely vaccinated since the 1990s. As a result, we see very little hepatitis B in the routinely vaccinated age groups; however, rates have been steady or rising in unvaccinated older adults. CDC recommends extending this vaccine protection to all adults in a catch-up vaccination program. This is a crucial step toward the goal of eliminating hepatitis B and the liver disease and cancer it causes.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

PreHevbrio (VBI, 3-dose series), Heplisav-B (Dynavax, 2-dose series), and Twinrix (GSK, combination HepA-HepB, 3-dose series) are approved for adults age 18 years and older. Engerix-B (GSK) and Recombivax HB (Merck), both administered as a 1.0 mL 3-dose series, are approved for adults age 20 years and older; young adults who are age 19 receive the 0.5 mL pediatric dose of Engerix-B and Recombivax HB.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

In general, one HepB series is needed in a lifetime, with rare exceptions described at the end of this answer.

As of April 2022, CDC recommends HepB vaccination of all adults age 60 or older who are in any of the following risk groups (vaccination also may be offered to age 60 and older, regardless of risk):

  • All adults age 60 years and older with risk factors for hepatitis B:
    • People at risk for infection by sexual exposure
      • Sex partners of people testing positive for HBsAg
      • Sexually active people who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (e.g., those with more than one sex partner during the previous 6 months)
      • People seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted infection
      • Men who have sex with men
    • People at risk for infection by percutaneous or mucosal exposure to blood
      • People with current or recent injection drug use
      • Household contacts of people testing positive for HBsAg
      • Residents and staff members of facilities for people with developmental disabilities
      • Healthcare and public safety personnel with reasonably anticipated risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
      • People on maintenance dialysis, including in-center or home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, and people who are predialysis
      • People with diabetes, at the discretion of the treating clinician
    • Others
      • International travelers to countries with high or intermediate levels of endemic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (HBsAg prevalence of 2% or higher)
      • People with hepatitis C virus infection
      • People with chronic liver disease (including, but not limited to, people with cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis, and an alanine aminotransferase or aspartate aminotransferase level greater than twice the upper limit of normal)
      • People with HIV infection
      • People who are incarcerated

The official CDC recommendations for HepB vaccination of adults are available at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/pdfs/mm7113a1-H.pdf. Immunize.org has developed a standing order template for adult HepB vaccination: www.immunize.org/catg.d/p3076.pdf.

In general, people who have documented completion of a HepB series at any point or who have a history of previous HBV infection should not receive additional HepB vaccination, although there is no evidence that additional vaccination is harmful. In settings where the patient population has a high rate of previous HBV infection, prevaccination testing, which may be performed at the same visit when the first dose of vaccine is administered, might reduce costs by avoiding complete vaccination of people who are already immune. However, prevaccination testing is not required and should not create a barrier to vaccination.

Revaccination may be indicated for certain high-risk adults, including healthcare workers who are documented non-responders to an initial HepB series, and certain people who receive dialysis or who are immunocompromised. For specific revaccination guidance, see the 2018 ACIP recommendations for the prevention of hepatitis B at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/rr/pdfs/rr6701-H.pdf (pages 23–24).

People with risk factors who are 60 and older should be vaccinated and other people older than 60 may be vaccinated.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Prior vaccine recommendations put the burden on the patient to ask for HepB vaccination if they wanted it. The recommendations published in 2022 make vaccinating adults much easier because CDC recommends that healthcare providers routinely offer HepB vaccine to ALL adult patients, including those over 60 without known risk factors. The idea of this change is to shift the burden of requesting vaccination off the patient and instead allow the provider to offer the vaccine routinely.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

The HepB series is now recommended for all people age 59 years and younger. Among older age groups the risk of acute hepatitis B is lower: HepB may be administered to unvaccinated adults with diabetes age 60 years and older at the discretion of the treating clinician.

In 2011, CDC first published ACIP recommendations that HepB vaccine be given to adults with diabetes because of studies showing that adults with diabetes and no other hepatitis B risk factors had twice the odds of developing acute hepatitis B compared to adults without diabetes or other risk factors. There also have been a number of outbreaks of HBV infection in settings that provide assisted blood glucose monitoring for people with diabetes.

No serologic testing or additional HepB vaccination is recommended for adults who have documentation of receiving a complete HepB series at any time in the past. For those who did not complete the vaccination series, no maximum interval between doses exists that would make the HepB vaccination series ineffective or that would require restarting the series.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

No, gestational diabetes is not classified as a risk factor for acute hepatitis B infection. The increased risk of acute hepatitis B infection has been associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes; however, all people age 59 years or younger are now recommended to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

The deltoid muscle is recommended for routine intramuscular (IM) vaccination among adults. The anterolateral thigh also can be used. The gluteus muscle should not be used as a site for administering HepB. Please refer to the Immunize.org document Administering Vaccines to Adults: Dose, Route, Site, and Needle Size (available at www.immunize.org/catg.d/p3084.pdf) for complete information on this issue.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Serologic testing for immunity after HepB vaccination is recommended only for people whose subsequent clinical management depends on knowledge of their immune status. Testing is not necessary after routine vaccination of adults.

Post-vaccination anti-HBs testing of certain adults is recommended for the following reasons:

  • To determine the need for revaccination and the type of follow-up testing:
    • HCP and public safety workers at risk for blood or body fluid exposure
    • Hemodialysis patients (and others who might require outpatient hemodialysis)
    • People with HIV, and other immunocompromised people (e.g., hematopoietic stem-cell transplant recipients or people receiving chemotherapy)
  • To determine the need for revaccination and for other methods of protection against HBV infection:
    • Sex partners or needle-sharing partners of HBsAg-positive people

Testing should be performed 1 to 2 months after the last dose of vaccine.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Sexually transmitted infections, including hepatitis B, can be transmitted by sexual assault. Unless the victim has a documented history of completed HepB vaccination, a series of HepB alone (2 or 3 doses depending on brand) should be administered with the first dose as soon as possible after the assault. Administration of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) is not necessary.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Neither the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) nor the manufacturers address the timing of vaccination and dialysis. People with end-stage renal disease including predialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis should be tested for hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) 1–2 months after vaccination, and annually. If the anti-HBs level is below 10mIU/mL, they should be revaccinated.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Recommendations for immunocompromised people, such as hemodialysis patients, are different than those for immunocompetent people. Hemodialysis patients who do not respond to an initial vaccine series should be revaccinated with two to four additional doses of HepB (depending on the brand). Hemodialysis patients are considered immune as long as they have adequate anti-HBs (at least 10 mIU/mL). For hemodialysis patients who have responded with adequate anti-HBs (postvaccination testing should be done 1 to 2 months after the vaccine series) to HepB vaccination, no HBsAg testing is needed but anti-HBs should be done annually. If anti-HBs declines below 10 mIU/mL, a booster dose of HepB should be given and annual anti-HBs testing should be continued. Retesting immediately after the booster dose is not necessary.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

There is no maximum number of HepB booster doses a dialysis patient can receive. Serology should be performed once a year and a booster dose given if serology is negative (less than 10 mIU/mL). Serology is not recommended more frequently than once a year, so boosters wouldn’t be given more than once a year.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Yes. If given on the same day as separate injections in separate sites, two injections of Engerix-B 20 mcg can be counted as the equivalent of one Recombivax HB 40-mcg dose. According to the package insert, Engerix-B is licensed for use in this manner (vaccine package inserts for all vaccines are available at www.immunize.org/fda). Note that an all-Engerix-B or mixed-brand dialysis schedule is a 4-dose series (doses at 0, 1, 2, and 6 months). Vaccination using only Recombivax HB dialysis formulation is a 3-dose schedule (doses at 0, 1, and 6 months). Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio have not been evaluated for use in dialysis patients.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

When using Engerix-B or Recombivax HB brands of HepB to vaccinate hemodialysis or other immunocompromised people, a higher dose is recommended, so to the extent these patients are immunocompromised, this is within ACIP recommendations (note that “immunocompromised” is not defined in the recommendations). Regardless, this practice is appropriate for several reasons, including that these patients may be starting hemodialysis soon, and because use of the higher dose is not harmful. This is somewhat of a gray area but the clinician can use clinical judgment. Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio have not been evaluated for use in dialysis or pre-dialysis patients.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

The safety and effectiveness of Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio have not been established for adult patients on hemodialysis. ACIP recommendations only address the use of Engerix-B or Recombivax HB in this population at this time.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Twinrix (GSK) is an inactivated combination vaccine containing both hepatitis A virus (HAV) and HBV antigens. The vaccine contains 720 EL.U. of hepatitis A antigen (half of the Havrix adult dose) and 20 mcg of hepatitis B antigen (the full Engerix-B adult dose). In the United States, Twinrix is licensed for use in people who are age 18 years or older. It can be administered to people who are at risk for hepatitis A and who are recommended to receive hepatitis B vaccination, such as certain international travelers, people with chronic liver disease, men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, or to people who want to be immune to both diseases.

A standard Twinrix series consists of 3 doses given intramuscularly on a 0, 1, and 6 month schedule.

In March 2007, the FDA approved a 4-dose schedule for Twinrix. It consists of 3 doses given within 3 weeks, followed by a booster dose at 12 months (0, 7 days, 21 to 30 days, and 12 months). The 4-dose schedule could benefit individuals needing rapid protection from hepatitis A and hepatitis B, such as some people traveling imminently. Twinrix cannot be used for post-exposure prophylaxis.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

No. Twinrix contains 50% less hepatitis A antigen component than Havrix, GSK’s monovalent HepA [720 vs. 1440 El. U.], so the patient would not receive the recommended dose of HepA antigen.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Minimum intervals for Twinrix are 4 weeks between dose #1 and dose #2, and 5 months between dose #2 and dose #3.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

It seems tempting to wait for screening test results, but since this is a 2- or 3-dose series that most adults need, we do not recommend missing an opportunity to vaccinate. Vaccination today helps protect a person who needs it. Even for specialists who work with patient groups with an increased likelihood of previous infection, such as people who use injection drugs, we encourage administering the first dose just after screening (at the same visit). If results show no further vaccination is needed then the vaccine series can be stopped at that point. If the results show further vaccination is needed, as it will with most people, then only one or two more doses will be needed to complete the series.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Because HepB vaccination is a series of 2 or 3 doses of vaccine, and because most older adults need vaccination, we recommend initiating the series whenever and in whatever setting the opportunity arises. There’s no downside to vaccinating, but delaying vaccination could leave someone vulnerable to infection. Patients who are vaccinated should be informed of the recommendation for a one-time triple panel screening test in the future.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Draw the blood for screening first. It is possible to detect HBsAg from the HepB vaccine in serologic tests up to 18 days after vaccination, so CDC recommends obtaining blood for the screening triple panel before administering the first dose of vaccine to avoid any chance of a false positive HBsAg result. If the triple panel screening test needs to be done later, wait one month after administration of the most recent dose of HepB vaccine.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

CDC’s General Best Practice Guidelines for Immunization states that, in general, you should only accept written records as proof of vaccination. If the person’s recollection is wrong, and the person is susceptible, then not vaccinating leaves them at ongoing risk.

If you have no record of HepB vaccination and you intend to do the triple panel screen, it is reasonable to proceed with giving the first dose of HepB vaccine after drawing blood for screening. If that triple panel screening test shows evidence that further vaccination is not needed, or if the patient locates records later, then discontinue vaccination at that point. If screening is not done, and records are unavailable, complete the series. If you screen the patient after a partial HepB vaccination series, the screening results might show a positive anti-HBs antibody; however, you should complete the vaccine series to ensure the patient develops the intended long-term protection from infection.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

The triple panel is important for vaccinated adults to find out if they have evidence of current or past infection, which could have occurred before vaccination. Antiviral treatment may be needed in certain situations.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

For most people the answer is NO. A negative anti-HBs result is a common finding when tested years after completing vaccination, and most healthy people may be reassured that they would still be protected from illness, if exposed.

Antibody titers naturally drift lower over the years; however, studies have shown that the majority of people who were effectively immunized decades earlier can mount an effective antibody response and prevent symptomatic or chronic infection after exposure. A study of members of the Alaskan Native population published in 2022 estimated that 86% had effective protection 35 years following vaccination. Even those few with serologic evidence of hepatitis B infection at some point after vaccination showed no evidence of active infection, which is the most important health outcome.

Revaccination is indicated for certain people at ongoing high risk, as specified in the 2018 ACIP recommendation (e.g., nonresponder infants born to people who tested positive for HBsAg, health care providers at risk of occupational exposure, and people on hemodialysis or with significant immunocompromise). For further details, see the 2018 ACIP recommendation, pages 23 and 24: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/rr/pdfs/rr6701-H.pdf.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

There are 4 different HepB vaccines approved for adults, plus the Twinrix (GSK) combination HepA-HepB vaccine. While all of the HepB vaccines licensed for adults are acceptable and recommended, with no preference among them expressed by ACIP, some of the differences among them are outlined below. Clinicians choosing among products may find it useful to consider these differences when making choices for their patient population.

The schedule for Heplisav-B (Dynavax) is 2 doses, given at least one month apart, while all other products require a 3-dose series given over a period of 6 months. Twinrix protects adults against both hepatitis A and B in 3 doses given over 6 months, if vaccination against both is desired. Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio (VBI), both show higher seroconversion rates among some groups that traditionally respond poorly to HepB; the immune response to Engerix-B (GSK) and Recombivax-HB (Merck) declines gradually after age 40, and may be lower in people who are obese or who have diabetes. PreHevbrio is the only HepB product that does not contain yeast, making it is safe for yeast-allergic recipients.

Recombivax-HB and Engerix-B are both recommended when vaccinating during pregnancy; neither Heplisav-B nor PreHevbrio are recommended during pregnancy at this time due to insufficient data available on the safety of these products when given during pregnancy. (Note: testing for pregnancy before HepB vaccination is not recommended.)

 

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

If the vaccine type is unknown, but you have documentation, simply pick up the series where you left off and give dose 2 now—you never have to restart the vaccine series. The patient will need a total of three doses since the only 2-dose series option is for Heplisav-B. If you use Heplisav-B, complete the vaccination series by giving a dose now and a second Heplisav-B dose at least 4 weeks later. If you use any other HepB vaccine product, use a minimum interval of 8 weeks between dose 2 and dose 3 to complete the series. See the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule for details, available at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/adult.html.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

In general, this is not an issue, but CDC recommends waiting at least 1 month (4 weeks) after HepB vaccination before drawing blood for the triple panel screen for hepatitis B. HBsAg present in the HepB vaccine has been detected in serologic tests up to 18 days after vaccine administration. You do not have to delay the triple panel screen until after the vaccine series is complete, as long as it’s been at least 4 weeks since the most recent dose.

If you screen the patient after a partial HepB vaccination series, the screening results might show a positive anti-HBs antibody; however, you will still need to complete the vaccine series to ensure the patient develops long-term protection from infection.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

There a several potential interpretations of an isolated anti-HBc positive result (with a negative HBsAg and negative anti-HBs). Additional evaluation of the patient’s immune status and risk history is needed. A 2011–2018 national survey found the prevalence of isolated positive anti-HBc is about 0.8%. The total anti-HBc tests are very accurate, at about 99.8% specificity; however, if a person has no risk factors for hepatitis B, the result may be a false positive. Other possibilities include: a past resolved infection; an occult infection (HBV DNA is detectable but surface antigen is not detected); an early infection tested during the brief period of time before anti-HBs antibodies are detectable; or, an infection with a hepatitis B virus with a mutant surface antigen not detectable by standard tests. Depending upon the circumstances, consultation with a specialist may be helpful.

Additional resources for the evaluation of isolated anti-HBc antibody results are available from the University of Washington: www.hepatitisb.uw.edu/go/screening-diagnosis/diagnosis-hbv/ core-concept/all and from CDC: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis-b/hcp/diagnosis-testing/#cdc_hcp_diagnosis_interpreting-how-to-interpret-test-results.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Documentation is very important to the success of the adult HepB catch-up vaccination program. First, give the patient a personal record: let them know that taking a digital photo of their record is wise. Second, all states have an immunization information system, known as an IIS or immunization registry. Check the IIS for the patient’s vaccination records and report doses administered to the IIS to ensure a permanent record of vaccination exists that is accessible to other healthcare providers who need the information. This is the best way to minimize unnecessary repeated hepatitis B evaluation and vaccination in the future.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

While breakthrough infections can happen, it is very uncommon in an otherwise healthy young adult. In this scenario, it is unknown when the HBV infection occurred. It is possible that the person had an unrecognized exposure to hepatitis B virus at some time before they were vaccinated: they may even have been born to a hepatitis B-infected mother and infected at birth. This is the reason triple panel screening of every adult, regardless of vaccination history, is recommended. People who decline or defer screening but accept vaccination should understand that vaccination will not alter a pre-existing infection, which is why hepatitis B screening is important for everyone.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

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