DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM:
Hepatitis B vaccines (Recombivax HB, Engerix-B) are used to prevent hepatitis B infection, a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Hepatitis B is easily spread through contact with blood or other fluids of an infected person. People may also become infected from touching or coming into contact with a contaminated object. The hepatitis B virus can live on surfaces for up to 7 days. Some ways that people may become infected include:
- Transmission during birth from an infected mother to her newborn
- Contact with blood or other body fluids though breaks in the skin such as bites, cuts, or sores
- Contact with objects that have blood or body fluids on them such as razors or toothbrushes that may themselves come into contact with other person's blood
- Having unprotected sex with an infected person
- Sharing needles used to inject illicit drugs
- Getting stuck with a previously used needle that is contaminated
Hepatitis B can cause an acute (short term) illness, with symptoms that include:
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Pain in muscles, joints, and stomach
- Additionally, some patients may develop a long term (chronic) infection which can lead to:
- Liver damage
- Liver cancer
Getting vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus is the best way to prevent these problems. Hepatitis B vaccines are made from noninfectious parts of HBV using recombinant DNA technology. The vaccines are sterile preparations for intramuscular injection and contain purified inactive proteins from the surface of HBV. The proteins can activate the immune system but cannot give rise to a replicating virus. Viral proteins used in HBV vaccines are manufactured in yeast cells (S. cerevisiae) using recombinant technology. Hepatitis B vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to attack the viral proteins. When a hepatitis B vaccine is administered, the body's immune system recognizes the viral proteins in the vaccine as foreign, and develops antibodies against them, thus providing immunity from future infections. In the event of HBV exposure following vaccination, the body will already be primed to fight the infection.
The FDA approved the first HBV vaccine in 1983.
REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information
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