Hepatitis B Immunization Program for Grade 7 Students

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a virus that can permanently damage your liver and is a leading cause of liver cancer. There is no cure for Hepatitis B and some people will die from the virus. Most people get better, but about 1 out of 10 people will carry the virus for life and spread it to others.

How effective is the hepatitis B vaccine?

The vaccine is almost 100% effective against the hepatitis B virus. Studies show good protection for over 20 years after vaccination. You cannot get a hepatitis B infection from the vaccine.

You can prevent hepatitis B by having your child vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine.

How is it spread?

Hepatitis B is spread through the blood and body fluids of an infected person. You can get hepatitis B if :

  • You share personal care articles such as razors, scissors, nail clippers, or a toothbrush.
  • Dirty equipment was used for your piercing or tattoo
  • You have intimate contact with an infected person
  • You share needles with an infected person

An infected mother can also pass hepatitis B to her child at birth.

You cannot get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging, or from using the same dishes as an infected person. It is not passed on when someone coughs or sneezes.

Who should get the hepatitis B vaccine?

The hepatitis B vaccine is approved for all ages from birth onwards. The provincial government funds the voluntary hepatitis B vaccination program for all Grade 7 students in Ontario. This means that all students starting in Grade 7 can get the vaccine free from the Health Unit. The goal of the program is to vaccinate students against the hepatitis B virus while their risk of getting the virus is low. If a student has previously completed a series of hepatitis B shots, further doses may or may not be needed.

For questions about the hepatitis B vaccination program for Grade 7 students, please call our Healthy Schools Team at 519-258-2146 ext. 1222.

Who should not get the hepatitis B vaccine?

You or your child should not get the hepatitis B vaccine if either of you have had a serious reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine in the past. Check with your health care provider if you or your child has ever had an allergic reaction to another vaccine, aluminum, yeast, latex, or formaldehyde. The risk of serious illness from the hepatitis B virus is much greater than the risk of complications from the hepatitis B vaccine.

Are there side effects from the vaccine?

The vaccine, used in Canada since 1982, is one of the safest vaccines around. It may cause minor side effects that can last a day or more, such as:

  • Redness, warmth, or slight swelling at the site of injection
  • Tiredness
  • Slight fever

Serious reactions are rare. These reactions may include: trouble breathing, swelling of face or mouth, fever over 39°C, hives, or a rash. Report them to your health care provider or local health unit if these reactions occur within 15 days of injection.

How is the publicly funded (free) hepatitis B vaccine program delivered in my child’s school?

Public Health nurses will give students two separate injections, at least 4 to 6 months apart, depending on the vaccine product available. The nurse may delay giving the vaccine to anyone who has a fever or any other illness more serious than a minor cold.

What if my child misses the hepatitis B shot at school?

The Health Unit provides Hepatitis B vaccine clinics at most school sites during the fall and spring for Grade 7 students. You can book an appointment to get your child's vaccine at the Health Unit should they miss it at school.

Can my child or myself get the Hepatitis B shot at our family doctor’s?

Publicly-funded (free) hepatitis B vaccine is only available through the Health Unit. If given by the family doctor or at a clinic, you must pay for the vaccine. Up to three doses may be needed.

For further information, contact the Health Unit at 258-2146 ext. 1222.