The Hepatitis B virus can lead to acute or chronic liver disease and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it causes approximately 2,000 deaths each year. The Hepatitis B infection can be temporary, resulting in short-term symptoms such as jaundice, fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and pain, but a chronic infection can lead to serious consequences. Chronic Hepatitis B is a virus infection that remains in the body and may result in cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and death.
Who is at risk for Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is spread through bodily fluids and can be passed from one person with the virus to another in a number of ways. Sharing personal items, such as a razor or a toothbrush, having sex, being in contact with open sores or blood, or sharing needles, syringes, or other medical equipment with someone who has been infected can put you at risk. The Hepatitis vaccine is recommended for individuals based on their potential exposure to the virus. Unvaccinated adults may be at risk if they live with someone who has Hepatitis B, have chronic liver disease, kidney disease, HIV, or diabetes, travel to areas of the world where Hepatitis B is prevalent, are sexually active, or work in health care or public safety.
What to Expect
The Hepatitis B vaccine is usually administered as multiple shots (2, 3, or 4) over a period of 1-6 months. Mild side effects may include a low-grade fever or soreness in the area of the vaccine. These minor issues usually subside within a day or two. If you have any concerns after you receive the vaccination, contact your doctor immediately.
Medicare Coverage for Hepatitis B Shots
Medicare Part B will cover the cost of Hepatitis B vaccinations if you are considered at a medium or high risk of contracting the disease. You will be considered at risk if you have hemophilia, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or diabetes. If you live with someone with Hepatitis B or have frequent contact with blood and bodily fluids due to your work in health care, your risk will be considered higher, as well. As long as you meet the criteria and visit a physician who accepts assignment, you will pay nothing for the shots. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you will have at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, and many offer additional coverage.