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Ask the Experts: Hepatitis B: For Healthcare Personnel

Results (22)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that HepB be offered to healthcare personnel (HCP) who have a reasonable expectation of being exposed to blood and body fluids on the job. This requirement does not include personnel who would not be expected to have occupational risk (for example, general office workers). Employers must ensure that workers who decline HepB vaccination sign a declination form. For a fact sheet about this OSHA requirement, go to: www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_BloodborneFacts/bbfact05.pdf.

As of April 2022, CDC recommends that all people younger than age 60 years be vaccinated against hepatitis B. All adults age 60 or over with risk factors for acquiring hepatitis B (including HCP expected to be exposed to blood and body fluids) also should be vaccinated. Any adult age 60 or older may be vaccinated.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

The ACIP HepB vaccine recommendations published in MMWR on January 12, 2018, remain in effect concerning vaccination of healthcare professionals, management of post-vaccination testing for evidence of immunity, revaccination considerations for nonresponders, and post-exposure management. Access these recommendations, beginning on page 18, at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/rr/pdfs/rr6701-H.pdf.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

The 2023 CDC recommendation is for all adults to have a triple panel screen for hepatitis B at least once in a lifetime. If the healthcare worker has never been screened, it would be ideal to do the triple panel screen in this situation.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Yes. However, data are limited on the safety and immunogenicity effects when Heplisav-B or PreHevbrio is interchanged with HepB from other manufacturers. When feasible, the same manufacturer’s vaccines should be used to complete the series. However, vaccination should not be deferred when the manufacturer of the previously administered vaccine is unknown or when the vaccine from the same manufacturer is unavailable.

The 2-dose (4 weeks apart) HepB series only applies when both doses in the series consist of Heplisav-B. Series consisting of a combination of 1 dose of Heplisav-B and a vaccine from a different manufacturer should consist of 3 total vaccine doses and should adhere to the 3-dose schedule minimum intervals of 4 weeks between dose 1 and 2, 8 weeks between dose 2 and 3, and 16 weeks between dose 1 and 3. Doses administered at less than the minimum interval should be repeated. However, any series containing 2 doses of Heplisav-B administered at least 4 weeks apart is valid, even if the patient received a single earlier dose from another manufacturer.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

The minimal intervals for the 3-dose HepB vaccines are at least 4 weeks between doses #1 and #2, at least 8 weeks between doses #2 and #3, and at least 16 weeks between doses #1 and #3. Since in your cases 16 weeks or more have elapsed since dose #1, you should schedule dose #3 to be given 8 weeks after dose #2. It is not necessary to restart the series because of an extended interval between doses, no matter how long.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Yes. Many years of experience with Engerix-B and Recombivax HB brands of HepB vaccines indicate no apparent risk for adverse events to a developing fetus. Current HepB products contain noninfectious hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and should pose no risk to the fetus. If not vaccinated, a pregnant person may contract an HBV infection during pregnancy, which might result in severe disease for the newborn.

Available human data on Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio administered during pregnancy are insufficient to assess vaccine-associated risks in pregnancy. For this reason, until safety data are available for Heplisav-B or PreHevbrio, providers should continue to vaccinate people needing HepB during pregnancy with either Engerix-B or Recombivax HB. Pregnancy testing prior to vaccination is not recommended.

Mothers who breastfeed their babies and need HepB can be vaccinated. Although data are not available to assess the effects of Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio on breastfed infants or on maternal milk production and excretion, there is no theoretical risk to the infant and vaccination with any HepB product is acceptable.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

All HCP, including trainees, who have a high risk of occupational percutaneous or mucosal exposure to blood or body fluids (for example, HCP with direct patient contact, HCP at risk of needlestick or sharps injury, laboratory workers who draw, test or handle blood specimens) should have postvaccination testing for antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs). Postvaccination testing should be done 1–2 months after the last dose of vaccine. Postvaccination testing for individuals at low risk for mucosal or percutaneous exposure to blood or body fluids (for example, public safety workers and HCP without direct patient contact) likely is not cost-effective; however, those who do not undergo postvaccination testing should be counseled to seek immediate testing if exposed.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

There are two options for healthcare professionals who test negative after completing their first HepB series. The first option is to give one dose of HepB, then retest for anti-HBs. If the result is positive, the person should be considered immune. If negative, the person should receive the remaining doses in the series, and then retest for anti-HBs. If the result is positive, the person should be considered immune. If negative, the person should be tested for HBsAg and total anti-HBc to determine their HBV infection status.

People who test negative for HBsAg and total anti-HBc should be considered vaccine non-responders and susceptible to HBV infection. They should be counseled about precautions to prevent HBV infection and the need to obtain hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) prophylaxis for any known or likely exposure to HBsAg-positive blood. Those found to be HBsAg negative but total anti-HBc positive were infected in the past and require no vaccination or treatment. If the HBsAg and total anti-HBc tests are positive, the person should receive appropriate counseling for preventing transmission to others as well as referral for ongoing care to a specialist experienced in the medical management of chronic HBV infection. They should not be excluded from work.

The second option is to repeat the 2- or 3-dose series (depending on vaccine brand) and test for anti-HBs 1–2 months after the final dose of the repeat series. Heplisav-B or PreHevbrio may be used for revaccination following an initial HepB series that consisted of doses from a different manufacturer. Heplisav-B or PreHevbrio may also be used to revaccinate new healthcare personnel (including the challenge dose) initially vaccinated with a vaccine from a different manufacturer in the distant past who have anti-HBs less than 10 mIU/mL upon hire or matriculation.

If the test is still negative after a second vaccine series, the person should be tested for HBsAg and total anti-HBc to determine their HBV infection status. People who test negative for HBsAg and total anti-HBc should be considered vaccine non-responders and susceptible to HBV infection. They should be counseled about precautions to prevent HBV infection and the need to obtain hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) prophylaxis for any known or likely exposure to HBsAg-positive blood. Those found to be HBsAg negative but total anti-HBc positive were infected in the past and require no vaccination or treatment. If the HBsAg and total anti-HBc tests are positive, the person should receive appropriate counseling for preventing transmission to others as well as referral for ongoing care to a specialist experienced in the medical management of chronic HBV infection. They should not be excluded from work.

The choice of option 1 and option 2 should be based on epidemiologic considerations and likelihood that the patient is HBsAg positive, since there is a delay in option 1 in determining HBsAg status.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

For immunocompetent HCP, periodic testing or periodic boosting is not needed. Postvaccination testing (anti-HBs) should be done 1–2 months after the last dose of the HepB series. If adequate anti-HBs (at least 10 mIU/mL) is present, nothing more needs to be done. This information should be made available to the employee and recorded in the employee’s health record.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

No. Immunocompetent people known to have responded to HepB vaccination in the past do not require additional passive or active immunization. Postvaccination testing should be done 1–2 months after the original vaccine series is completed. In this scenario, the initial postvaccination testing showed that the healthcare professional was protected. Substantial evidence suggests that adults who respond to a HepB series (anti-HBs of at least 10 mIU/mL) are protected from chronic HBV infection for at least 30 years, even if there is no detectable anti-HBs currently. Only immunocompromised people (for example, dialysis patients, some people living with HIV) need to have anti-HBs testing performed periodically. Booster doses of vaccine to maintain their protective anti-HBs concentrations to at least 10 mIU/mL are recommended for dialysis patients and may be given to some people living with HIV.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023
Healthcare personnel status Postexposure testing Postexposure prophylaxis Postvaccination
serologic
testing†
Source patient
(HBsAg)
HCP testing
(anti-HBs)
HBIG* Vaccination
Documented responder§ after
complete series
No action needed
Documented nonresponder
after 2 complete series
Positive/unknown Not indicated HBIG x2 separated
by 1 month
No
Negative No action needed
Response unknown after
complete series
Positive/unknown <10mIU/mL** HBIG x1 Initiate
revaccination
Yes
Negative <10mIU/mL None
Any result >10mIU/mL No action needed
Unvaccinated/incompletely
vaccinated or vaccine refusers
Positive/unknown —** HBIG x1 Complete
vaccination
Yes
Negative None Complete
vaccination
Yes

Abbreviations: HCP = health-care personnel; HBsAg = hepatitis B surface antigen; anti-HBs = antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen; HBIG = hepatitis B immune globulin.

* HBIG should be administered intramuscularly as soon as possible after exposure when indicated. The effectiveness of HBIG when administered >7 days after percutaneous, mucosal, or nonintact skin exposures is unknown. HBIG dosage is 0.06 mL/kg.

† Should be performed 1–2 months after the last dose of the HepB vaccine series (and 6 months after administration of HBIG to avoid detection of passively administered anti-HBs) using a quantitative method that allows detection of the protective concentration of anti-HBs (>10 mIU/mL).

§ A responder is defined as a person with anti-HBs >10 mIU/mL after 1 or more complete series of HepB vaccine.

¶ A nonresponder is defined as a person with anti-HBs <10 mIU/mL after 2 complete series of HepB vaccine.

** HCP who have anti-HBs <10mIU/mL, or who are unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated, and sustain an exposure to a source patient who is HBsAg-positive or has unknown HBsAg status, should undergo baseline testing for HBV infection as soon as possible after exposure, and follow-up testing approximately 6 months later. Initial baseline tests consist of total anti-HBc; testing at approximately 6 months consists of HBsAg and total anti-HBc.

Source: This table from Prevention of Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the United States: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR 2018;67(RR-1): 18 www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/rr/pdfs/rr6701-H.pdf

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

In general, no, but the type of testing (pre-exposure or post-exposure) depends on the healthcare worker’s profession and work setting. The risk for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection for vaccinated healthcare personnel (HCP) can vary widely by setting and profession. The risk might be low enough in certain settings that assessment of hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) status and appropriate follow-up can be done at the time of exposure to potentially infectious blood or body fluids. This approach relies on HCP recognizing and reporting blood and body fluid exposures and might be applied on the basis of documented low risk, implementation, and cost considerations. Trainees, some occupations (such as those with frequent exposure to sharp instruments and blood), and HCP practicing in certain populations are at greater risk of exposure to blood or body fluid exposure from an HBsAg-positive patient. Vaccinated HCP in these settings/occupations would benefit from a pre-exposure approach.

Because CDC recommends, as of March 2023, that all adults receive a triple panel screening test for HBV once in their lifetime, it may be practical to conduct the routine triple panel test on any HCP who needs testing and has not had a triple panel screening test.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

ACIP recommends that healthcare personnel with written documentation of having received a properly spaced series of HepB in the past (such as in infancy or adolescence) but who now test negative for anti-HBs should receive a single “booster” or “challenge” dose of HepB and be retested 1–2 months later. Those who test positive following the “booster” dose are immune and require no further vaccination or testing. Those who test negative should complete a second 2- or 3-dose series of HepB on the usual schedule and be tested again 1–2 months after the last dose. The “booster” dose counts as the first dose in this series. Heplisav-B or PreHevbrio may be used to revaccinate new healthcare personnel (including the challenge dose) initially vaccinated with a vaccine from a different manufacturer in the distant past who have anti-HBs less than 10 mIU/mL upon hire or matriculation. For more information see www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/rr/pdfs/rr6701-H.PDF, pages 21–22.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Anti-HBs testing for HCP who receive both hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine can be conducted as soon as 6 months after receipt of the HBIG.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

No. HCP with written documentation of receipt of a complete, properly spaced HepB series AND a positive anti-HBs can be considered immune to HBV and require no further testing or vaccination. Testing unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated HCP (including those without written documentation of vaccination) is not necessary and is potentially misleading because anti-HBs of 10 mIU/mL or higher as a correlate of vaccine-induced protection has only been determined for persons who have completed a HepB vaccination series. Persons who cannot provide written documentation of a complete HepB vaccination series should complete the series, then be tested for anti-HBs 1 to 2 months after the final dose.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

No. HCP who have documentation of receiving a complete HepB series and who tested positive for anti-HBs (defined as anti-HBs of 10 mIU/mL or higher) are considered to be immune to hepatitis B. Immunocompetent persons have long-term protection against HBV and do not need further testing or vaccine doses. Some immunodeficient persons (including those on hemodialysis) may need periodic booster doses of hepatitis B vaccine.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

No. The series should not be restarted. Continue the series from where you left off.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Because there is no documentation of vaccination, a vaccination series should be administered and postvaccination testing should be performed 1–2 months after the final dose of vaccine. There is no harm in receiving extra doses of vaccine. Postvaccination anti-HBs testing results should also be documented, including the date testing was performed. All healthcare settings should develop policies or guidelines to assure valid hepatitis B immunization.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

No. A positive anti-HBs indicates that the vaccinated person is immune at the time the person was tested but does not assure that the person has long-term immunity. Long-term immunity has been demonstrated only for people attaining an adequate anti-HBs result of at least 10 mIU/mL after completing a full vaccination series. The most direct way to deal with this is to vaccinate the employee with a series of hepatitis B vaccine; test for anti-HBs in 1–2 months and document the result in the employee’s health record. An adequate anti-HBs result from a documented vaccine series would assure not only seroprotection, but long-term protection.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

Do nothing. Data show that vaccine-induced anti-HBs levels might decline over time; however, immune memory (anamnestic anti-HBs response) remains intact following immunization. People with anti-HBs concentrations that decline to less than 10 mIU/mL are still protected against HBV infection. For healthcare professionals with normal immune status who have demonstrated adequate anti-HBs (at least 10 mIU/ mL) following full vaccination, booster doses of vaccine or periodic anti-HBs testing are not recommended.

Last reviewed: July 21, 2023

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