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What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a pathogenic microorganism that can cause potentially life-threatening diseases in humans. HBV infection is transmitted through exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Bloodborne pathogens enter the body through openings in the skin, such as cuts, as well as the body’s mucous membranes which include the eyes and mouth.
Who is at risk?
Any worker who has a reasonably anticipated contact with blood or OPIM as part of their jobs is considered to have occupational exposure and at risk of being infected. Workers infected with HBV face a risk for liver ailments which can be fatal, including cirrhosis of the liver and primary liver cancer. Examples of workers who may have occupational exposure include, but are not limited to, healthcare workers, emergency responders, morticians, first-aid personnel, correctional officers, and laundry workers in hospitals and commercial laundries that service healthcare or public safety institutions.
What responsibilities does an employer have?
- Develop a written exposure control plan.
- Implement the use of universal precautions and control measures, such as engineering controls, work practice controls, and personal protective equipment.
- Ensure that all occupationally exposed workers are trained about the vaccine and vaccination, including efficacy, safety, method of administration, and the benefits of vaccination.
- Make hepatitis B vaccination available to exposed workers at no cost and at a reasonable place and time.
- HBV vaccinations must be offered after training within 10 days of the initial assignment.
What is the HBV Vaccination?
- The hepatitis B vaccination is a non-infectious, vaccine prepared from recombinant yeast cultures, rather than human blood or plasma.
- There is no risk of contamination from other bloodborne pathogens nor is there any chance of developing HBV from the vaccine.
- To ensure immunity, it is important for individuals to complete the entire course of vaccination contained in the USPHS recommendations.
- The great majority of those vaccinated will develop immunity to the hepatitis B virus.
- The vaccine causes no harm to those who are already immune or to those who may be HBV carriers.
- Although workers may desire to have their blood tested for antibodies to see if vaccination is needed, employers cannot make such screening a condition of receiving a vaccination, and employers are not required to provide prescreening.
- Hepatitis B vaccination is recognized as an effective defense against HBV infection.
Declining the Vaccination
Employers must ensure that workers who decline the vaccination sign a declination form. The purpose of this is to encourage greater participation in the vaccination program by stating that a worker declining the vaccination remains at risk of acquiring hepatitis B. The form also states that if a worker initially declines to receive the vaccine, but later decides to accept it, the employer is required to make it available, at no cost, provided the worker is still occupationally exposed.
KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.