Notes From the Immunization Program:
Current Recommendations for Hepatitis B Vaccination
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has modified its recommendations for hepatitis B (HBV) vaccination. The ACIP now recommends that all adults aged 19-59 years and adults aged 60 and older with risk factors receive hepatitis B vaccines.
Ensure these groups are up to date on hepatitis B vaccination:
- Children aged <19
- Adults aged 19-59
- Adults aged 60 and older with risk factors for hepatitis B
- Risk factors include sexual exposures, people at risk by percutaneous or mucosal exposure, and others. A complete list can be found here.
Adults aged 60 and older without known risk factors may also be vaccinated.
Why hepatitis B and why now?
In 2019, the United States saw a rise in acute hepatitis B cases. Opioid use, which remains a growing public health concern in Philadelphia, has contributed to this increase in cases nationally.
To counter the rising incidence of acute hepatitis B in the U.S., ACIP expanded its recommendations for hepatitis B vaccination in November 2021.
However, a national survey conducted in February 2022 revealed that 55% of family physicians were unaware of the updated hepatitis B vaccine recommendations, and only 8% had fully implemented the new recommendations.
In Philadelphia, we have seen a small rise in the numbers of adults receiving hepatitis B vaccination following the new recommendations. However, the urge to vaccinate Philadelphians remains high. Pennsylvania has the fourth highest number of newly reported chronic HBV cases in the nation and Philadelphia accounts for most of these cases. Syringe exchange programs help decrease risky injection among drug users in Philadelphia, yet obstacles to safe injection persist.
Healthcare professionals can continue to decrease morbidity by promoting hepatitis B vaccination. A vaccine recommendation from patients’ provider is the strongest predictor of whether patients get vaccinated.
Strategies for increasing hepatitis B vaccination rates:
- Do not assume that hepatitis B vaccination has been completed. ACIP guidelines state that only written documentation should be accepted as evidence of previous vaccination.
- Use Philadelphia’s immunization information system (IIS) to verify whether patients have received hepatitis B vaccination. Providers can register with PhilaVax IIS by completing this form.
- A PhilaVax login enables providers to use the ‘Patient Search’ module to quickly search for a patient and access prior vaccinations received in the city of Philadelphia or surrounding jurisdictions. PhilaVax also hosts a vaccine recommender tool which highlights patients’ overdue vaccinations.
- Use every opportunity to offer hepatitis B vaccine to unvaccinated patients, even sick visits. If you don’t stock hepatitis B vaccine, refer patients to another local hospital, health center, pharmacy, or organization that can vaccinate.
- Patients who are uninsured or underinsured can visit a local Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Vaccines for Children (VFC) provider, or Vaccines for Adults at Risk (VFAAR) provider to receive vaccine at no or low cost.
- Document hepatitis B immunizations and maintain updated records.
- Participate in Philadelphia’s immunization information system (IIS) to report immunizations given.