Hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) injections can provide short-term protection against the hepatitis B virus. They may benefit people who have experienced recent exposure.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver and can lead to serious health complications, such as liver failure, scarring, and cancer.

Some people get acute hepatitis B, which lasts a few weeks or months. They might experience no symptoms or mild ones. Others will experience severe symptoms that require hospitalization. Chronic hepatitis B is more serious, and there is currently no cure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate there were around 2,000 new acute infections and 12,000 newly reported chronic cases in 2020. Vaccinations are available to help prevent infection. In other cases, people who may have experienced exposure to the virus can get short-term protection from immunoglobulin injections.

This article will discuss what immunoglobulin injections do, who may need one, and their potential side effects.

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Hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) is a means of protecting against hepatitis B infection. The injection contains human plasma with antibodies that help stop the infection from developing.

HBIG provides short-term protection for people who may have experienced exposure to the virus that causes the infection, such as through unprotected contact with the blood of a person with hepatitis B from a needlestick. People may also contract it by sharing certain items, such as toothbrushes, with people who have the infection.

HBIG injections can neutralize the hepatitis B virus and prevent it from establishing an infection in the body that can lead to illness.

The injection contains antibodies from plasma in human donors immune to the virus. Scientists call this passive immunity, and it provides temporary protection against hepatitis B infection when people have experienced exposure to the virus.

HBIG injections cannot provide long-term protection from hepatitis B. However, vaccinations do exist that protect people from hepatitis B infections when they have not had exposure.

Doctors recommend HBIG injections to people with exposure to the hepatitis B virus and who are at high risk for infection. The injection will reduce their risk of infection and illness.

People can get hepatitis B from exposure to the blood, semen, or other bodily fluids of someone with the virus, such as through:

  • sex
  • sharing needles and syringes
  • sharing toothbrushes, razors, or medical equipment
  • having direct contact with a wound or sore
  • being in healthcare facilities that do not have adequate methods of preventing infections from spreading

Hepatitis cannot pass through:

  • kissing
  • sharing utensils, food, or water
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • hugging
  • nursing an infant

It is helpful to discuss with a doctor when the right time is to get an HBIG injection. For example, the injection can interfere with other vaccinations, such as the one for MMR. A doctor must be aware of any recent vaccinations to adjust the dose of the HBIG injection.

HBIG injections effectively reduce the risk of infection in people with exposure to the hepatitis B virus.

The injections are most effective immediately after administration, as they can offer quick, short-lasting protection. Some evidence suggests the highest levels of immunity typically occur within the first 7 days, when around 80% of people reach peak immunity.

Doctors recommend getting the injection within 12­–24 hours of possible exposure. It is unlikely to be beneficial 7 days after exposure via a needle and 14 days after sexual exposure.

The HBIG is safe and effective. However, it may cause side effects that can include:

In some cases, the injection could cause more serious side effects, such as severe allergic reactions.

The HBIG injection is different from the hepatitis B vaccination.

The hepatitis vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting people against developing hepatitis B. It offers long-term protection against infection.

The CDC recommend that most people up to the age of 60 get the hepatitis B vaccine, including infants and children. Adults over the age of 60 may get the vaccine if they have risk factors for hepatitis B.

HBIG injections are only suitable as an emergency measure in people who experience exposure to the virus. For this reason, doctors may refer to them as a form of “postexposure prophylaxis.”

HBIG injections temporarily protect against hepatitis B infection in people who experience exposure to the virus that causes it. HBIG offers passive immunity with antibodies that neutralize the virus and prevent it from establishing an infection in the body.

It is most effective when doctors administer it immediately after possible exposure. The injection is safe but can cause some side effects, such as fever and pain at the injection site.

People who have not experienced exposure should receive vaccination against hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine provides long-term protection against infection, which can have serious health consequences. HBIG injections are only suitable for people who have had exposure to the virus.