Hepatitis B Vaccination & OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Standard

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Healthcare workers have high exposure rates to bloodborne pathogens, so OSHA has set up regulations to make sure preventative measures are taken, including free hepatitis B vaccinations. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Hepatitis B?

Believe it or not, we're all covered with microorganisms all the time! Don't panic though, most of the time these little critters are harmless and we coexist without any problems. However, sometimes these microorganisms find their way into our bodies and cause an infection; when this happens, they are known as pathogens.

There are different modes of transmission pathogens can take. Bloodborne pathogens move between people when someone is exposed to blood from an infected person. Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are three diseases that can spread via bloodborne pathogens.

The hepatitis B virus, as seen under a microscope.
hepatitis B virus

In this lesson, we're particularly interested in hepatitis B, a disease that causes serious liver damage and can lead to cirrhosis or even liver cancer.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Luckily, we've developed a vaccine for hepatitis B; after receiving a series of three shots, most people become immune to the disease. Because a vaccine exists, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to cover hepatitis B vaccinations for all employees who may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens during their regular work duties. This requirement is part of OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, which provides prevention and response measures for exposure to bloodborne pathogens in the workplace.

Many babies automatically begin their hepatitis B vaccinations right at birth. The vaccine is administered in three separate shots. For infants, the first shot is given when they are born, the second is given between 1-2 months of age, and the last is given between 6-18 months of age.

When adults receive the vaccine, it's still administered over three shots. The second shot is received about four weeks after the first, and the third shot is usually given around five months after the second. In adults, the vaccine is usually injected into the deltoid muscle, which is found around the shoulder.

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