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The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a DNA virus of the Hepadnavirus family. Approximately 350 million people worldwide (including 1.2 million in the U.S.) are infected, with about 1 million people per year dying of HBV-related liver disease. It is a major cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) and cirrhosis. A safe and effective vaccine is widely available to prevent HBV infection.
The Hepatitis B vaccine is a 3 shot series which is designed to provide immunity to the Hepatitis B virus. The disease is blood-borne and sexually transmitted. The Hep B vaccination is one of a series of vaccinations required for school entry in many states. Although hepatitis B is not airborne, it can be transmissible from child to child or in a household setting through exposure to blood and other bodily fluids and can also be transmitted mother-to-infant via breastfeeding. Prior to mandatory vaccination campaigns, approximately 30,000 infants and children per year were infected with Hepatitis B in the US. The number of infections in children has significantly decreased since the introduction of mandatory vaccination programs.
Side effects of the vaccine are generally mild, usually involving pain at the injection site and fever, as is the case with all injectable vaccines. Worldwide, over 500 million people have been vaccinated since the introduction of the vaccine. There have been some unverified hypotheses that there may be a causal link between Hep B vaccine and onset of Multiple Sclerosis, but the World Health Organization has concluded, "multiple studies and review panels have concluded that there is no link between MS and hepatitis B vaccination." There are currently several longitudinal studies being performed on patients who have been vaccinated to determine if such a link may exist, and if the risk of MS onset outweighs the benefit of the prevention of Hep B exposure in tens of thousands of individuals.
Religious Right activists and their followers should bear in mind that your immortal soul will be condemned to hell if you partake in Hepatitis B vaccinations. Plus, Hepatitis B can be transmitted sexually, so if you have it it's a sign that you're a dirty no-good sinner and God is cursing you for your wicked ways.
- CDC: Vaccination of Infants, Children, and Adolescents
- CDC MMWR: Program to Prevent Perinatal Hepatitis B Virus Transmission in a Health-Maintenance Organization — Northern California, 1990-1995
- National Centre for Immunization, Research & Surveillance: Hepatitis B and multiple sclerosis
- "Hepatitis B vaccination and the risk of childhood-onset multiple sclerosis" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Dec;161(12):1176-82.
- It doesn't.