A hepatitis B booster is an immunization against hepatitis B provided to someone who has been previously immunized if there are concerns about the person's ability to fight the virus. This is generally only recommended for health care workers and immunocompromised persons, as most people will successfully resist hepatitis B infection even if the antibody levels in their bodies are very low or undetectable. To determine if someone needs a booster, a hepatitis B antibody assay can be performed to see if the patient's body has enough antibodies to provide protection.
Generally, the three shot hepatitis B series should provide protection for at least 10 years, and up to 23. People who are in good health and are at low risk of repeat exposure to the virus do not need hepatitis B boosters, as their body will retain some residual immunity. Immunocompromised people, like patients with HIV or people in dialysis, are at higher risk of infection, and could benefit from a booster if their antibody levels are low. Likewise, health care workers may receive hepatitis B boosters, as they are at high risk of being exposed to body fluids containing hepatitis B. People with liver disease, who can experience severe complications if infected with hepatitis B, may also be advised to get a hepatitis B booster.
If there is concern about hepatitis B immunity, a blood sample can be taken to check for antibodies. The number of antibodies present will determine whether a booster is needed. If the patient has antibodies in concentrations between 10 and 100 million international units per milliliter of blood, it may be necessary to provide a hepatitis B booster to increase the concentrations and make sure the patient is fully protected from hepatitis B.
Rarely, adolescents who receive the hepatitis B vaccine may be given pediatric dosages because of their age and weight, and their bodies may fail to respond because the dose is not high enough. A doctor may recommend an antibody test to make sure the patient's vaccination was successful. If concentrations are too low, a hepatitis B booster of an adult dosage can be provided to make sure the patient will be immune to infection with this virus.
People who are unsure about whether they should be evaluated for the need for a hepatitis B booster can discuss their concerns with their doctors. It is important to be aware that insurance may not cover the antibody test if a patient doesn't have a demonstrable need, like a medical condition that would make hepatitis B infection particularly dangerous.