Tag: waning immunity

Is Mutating Mumps More Than the MMR Can Manage?

It is not news that we have been seeing more cases of mumps in recent years.

It is also isn’t news that many of these folks are vaccinated.

“Long Beach has been hit with a mumps outbreak that is vaccine-resistant. According to health officials in the Long Island town, almost two dozen individuals are believed to have contracted the virus, with four confirmed cases and at least 14 suspected ones.”

Natural News

That sites like Natural News is putting out misinformation about vaccine-resistant strains of mumps also shouldn’t be news to anyone.

Why Do Folks Think That Vaccine-Resistant Viruses Are Causing Mumps Outbreaks?

So are vaccine-resistant mumps viruses causing outbreaks?

There is no good evidence of that and plenty of evidence that our current vaccines, even though they aren’t perfect, do cover all wild strains of mumps.

Unfortunately, it might not be surprising that some folks are confused about vaccine-resistant mumps viruses, when we have health officials saying things like:

“Sometimes nature throws a strain at us that might have mutated a little bit, and coverage of the vaccine is not 100 percent.”

Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, Nassau County Health Commissioner

Dr. Eisenstein’s “might have mutated a little bit” comment got twisted into “the outbreak is most likely attributable to a new strain of the virus that is resistant to vaccines” by health reporters

And out of Arkansas, where there have also been large mumps outbreaks:

“We are actually to the point that we are worried that this vaccine may indeed not be protecting against the strain of mumps that is circulating as well as it could.”

Dr. Dirk Haselow, Arkansas State Epidemiologist

Of course, to say that the vaccine may not be protecting folks “as well as it could” doesn’t mean it doesn’t work because the wild type mumps virus has evolved or mutated enough to surmount our current MMR vaccine.

Is Mutating Mumps More Than the MMR Can Manage?

Although anything is possible, we fortunately have plenty of research that says that the mumps virus hasn’t mutated and that the MMR still works.

During an outbreak, universities make sure students are up-to-date with their MMR vaccines.
During an outbreak of mumps, some kids are getting a third dose of the MMR vaccine.

In fact, although the MMR vaccine is made from the A strain or genotype of mumps, it provides good protection against all 12 known strains of wild mumps viruses, including genotype G that has been causing most of the recent outbreaks.

But how can it cover a different strain of virus that isn’t in the vaccine?

Because not all viruses and vaccines are like influenza.

“The genotyping of the mumps virus is based on the Small Hydrophobic (SH) protein, a nonstructural protein and genetically the most variable one. Based on the SH-protein 12 different mumps viruses were detected up to now. In recent epidemics in Western countries the genotype G was mainly detected, while the mumps viruses used in the live attenuated mumps vaccines belong to genotype A (Jeryl Lynn) and to a lesser extent to genotype B (Urabe). However, antibodies against the SH protein have not yet been observed in human serum. It is, therefore, unlikely that antibodies against the SH protein play an important role in antibody-mediated virus neutralization.”

Sabbe et al. on The resurgence of mumps and pertussis

It is well known that you need a very specific match of the flu vaccine to the wild flu virus that is going around to get good protection, but for many other viruses, the differences that determine the strain or genotype have nothing to do with how antibodies will recognize the virus.

“Since mumps virus is monotypic, vaccine from any strain should provide lifelong protection against subsequent infection.”

Palacios et al. on Molecular Identification of Mumps Virus Genotypes from Clinical Samples: Standardized Method of Analysis

Like measles, mumps is a monotypic virus.

“Studies have demonstrated that blood sera from vaccinated persons cross-neutralizes currently circulating mumps strains.”

CDC on Mumps for Healthcare Providers

And like measles, the mumps vaccine (MMR), protects against all strains of wild mumps viruses.

“Compared with attack rates of 31.8%–42.9% among unvaccinated individuals, attack rates among recipients of 1 dose and 2 doses of the Jeryl Lynn vaccine strain were 4%–13.6% and 2.2%–3.6%, respectively.”

Dayan et al. on Mumps Outbreaks in Vaccinated Populations: Are Available Mumps Vaccines Effective Enough to Prevent Outbreaks?

And like other vaccines, the mumps vaccine (MMR) works.

Waning immunity may be an issue, but that certainly isn’t a reason to skip or delay this vaccine and put your kids, and everyone else, at risk to get mumps.

What to Know About Mumps Strains and Outbreaks

The MMR vaccines covers all strains of mumps and getting fully vaccinated is the best way to make sure your kids don’t get mumps.

More on Mumps Strains and Outbreaks

Why Do Some Vaccines Need Boosters?

Vaccines work.

They aren’t perfect though, which is why some vaccines need booster doses to help them provide long lasting protection.

Why Do Some Vaccines Need Boosters?

To be clear, just because you get more than one dose of a vaccine, that doesn’t make it a booster dose.

For example, infants get multiple doses of the DTaP, polio, Hib, hepatitis B, Prevnar, and rotavirus vaccines, but those are part of the primary series for those vaccines. They aren’t boosters.

“A “classical” prime-boost immunization schedule is, thus, to allow 4 to 6 months to elapse between priming and booster doses, hence the generic “0-1-6 month” (prime-prime-boost) schedule. Secondary antigen exposure thus results in the production of higher-affinity antibodies than primary responses.”

Plotkin’s Vaccines (Seventh Edition)

Getting the booster shot in a vaccine series is important to get full protection.
Getting the booster dose in a vaccine series is important to get full protection.

Classic booster doses are the:

But why do we need these booster doses?

While one or more doses of the primary series of the vaccine leads to the production of plasma cells and protective antibodies, the booster dose then causes a secondary immune response and the production of more long-lived plasma cells. That’s how we get higher levels of protective antibodies that will last longer.

Which Vaccines Don’t Need Boosters?

In general, live vaccines don’t need booster doses.

So why do we get a second dose of MMR?

This isn’t a classic booster dose. It protects the small percentage of people who don’t respond to the first dose.

Some folks may need a booster dose of the MMR vaccine in certain circumstances though, specifically if they are caught up in a mumps outbreak.

What to Know About Vaccine Booster Doses

Some vaccines need booster doses to help you get full protection. Don’t skip them.

More on Vaccine Booster Doses

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Pertussis

Although things are much better than they were in the pre-vaccine era, we still have pertussis outbreaks in the United States.

How does that work?

Waning immunity and folks who are unvaccinated.

How Contagious is Pertussis?

Pertussis is very contagious, but not quite as contagious as other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles.

That’s why the focus on controlling pertussis outbreaks is usually looking at close contacts – those who were within about 3 feet for at least 10 hours a week or who had direct face-to-face contact with the person when they were contagious.

Have you gotten a letter from your child's school about pertussis yet?
Have you gotten a letter from your child’s school about pertussis yet?

So when you get a letter about a possible case of pertussis in your child’s school, it may be a a general warning and not that your child is at risk.

How do you get pertussis?

“Persons with pertussis are infectious from the beginning of the catarrhal stage through the third week after the onset of paroxysms or until 5 days after the start of effective antimicrobial treatment.”

Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Spread by respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), pertussis symptoms usually start about 5 to 10 days after being exposed to someone else who is in the early stage of their pertussis infection.

While pertussis symptoms can linger for up to 10 weeks, someone who has pertussis is most contagious during the first 2 or 3 weeks of symptoms.

Is Your Child Protected Against Pertussis?

Two pertussis vaccines, DTaP and Tdap, help protect us against pertussis.

In the Unites States, they are routinely given as a primary series (DTaP) at 2, 4, and 6, and 15 to 18 months, with a booster dose at age 4 years. And then a booster of Tdap at age 11 to 12 years. Later, Tdap is given again during each pregnancy, between 27 and 36 weeks gestation. Adults who have never had a dose of Tdap should get caught up, especially if they will be around a baby.

Protection from the pertussis vaccines wanes or wears off, so even fully vaccinated children and adults can still get pertussis. Of course, you are much more likely to get pertussis if you are unvaccinated and you will likely have more severe illness if you are unvaccinated.

Postexposure Antimicrobial Prophylaxis for Pertussis

Fortunately, as with meningitis was caused by Neisseria meningitidis and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), taking antibiotics after being exposed to someone with pertussis can help prevent you from getting sick.

There are only specific situations for which this type of postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis is recommended though, so for example, you wouldn’t usually give everyone in a school antibiotics because a few kids had pertussis.

Why not give antibiotics to everyone who might have been exposed to someone with pertussis?

“…there are no data to indicate that widespread use of PEP among contacts effectively controls or limits the scope of pertussis outbreaks.”

Postexposure Antimicrobial Prophylaxis

In addition to the fact that it likely wouldn’t stop our pertussis outbreaks, overuse of antibiotics can have consequences.

Situations in which postexposure antibiotics (azithromycin, clarithromycin, and erythromycin, or Bactrim) likely would be a good idea include:

  • household contacts of a known pertussis case
  • to help control an outbreak in a limited closed setting, like a daycare
  • contacts of a pertussis cases who are at high risk for severe pertussis, including pregnant women, infants, especially infants less than 4 months old, and people with chronic medical problems
  • contacts of a pertussis cases who are also contacts of someone who is at high risk for severe pertussis

What if you were exposed to someone with pertussis and have already gotten sick?

If your child was exposed to pertussis and is now coughing, then in addition to antibiotics, pertussis PCR testing and/or culture will also likely be done to confirm that they have pertussis. And remember that their contacts might need postexposure antibiotics.

Kids who have been exposed to pertussis and who have been coughing for more than 3 weeks won’t need antibiotics or testing, as it is too late for the antibiotics to be helpful and likely too late for testing to be accurate. Fortunately, after 3 weeks, they should no longer be contagious.

What to Do If Your Unvaccinated Child Is Exposed to Pertussis

Unvaccinated kids who are exposed to pertussis should follow the postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis guidelines.

They should also get caught up on their immunizations, including DTaP if they are between 2 months and 6 years, or Tdap if they are older.

What to Do If Your Vaccinated Child Is Exposed to Pertussis

Since protection from the pertussis vaccines wanes, even kids who are fully vaccinated should follow the postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis guidelines if they are exposed to pertussis.

Then why get vaccinated?

Again, being vaccinated, your child will be much less likely to get pertussis than someone who is unvaccinated. Even though the pertussis vaccine isn’t perfect, it has been shown that children who had never received any doses of DTaP (unvaccinated children) faced odds of having pertussis at least eight times higher than children who received all five doses.

What to Know About Getting Exposed to Pertussis

Talk to your pediatrician if your child gets exposed to pertussis to make sure he doesn’t need post-exposure prophylaxis to keep him from getting sick, even if you think he is up-to-date on his vaccines.

More on Getting Exposed to Pertussis

Mumps at the National Cheerleaders Association All-Star National Championship

The boys and girls at the 2018 National Cheerleaders Association All-Star National Championship in Dallas were hoping to go home with a trophy.

Some got a little more – exposure to mumps.

Mumps at the National Cheerleaders Association All-Star National Championship

If you don’t have a kid in competitive cheer, you should know that the NCA All-Star Nationals is a big deal.

Over 1,300 teams with more than 23,000 cheerleaders were competing. They came from 9 countries and 38 states for a 3 day competition at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has issued a warning that a person with mumps was present at the NCA All-Star Nationals.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has issued a warning that a person with mumps was present at the NCA All-Star Nationals.

They worked hard, but they had fun.

And some of them may have been exposed to mumps.

What to Do If You Were Exposed to Mumps at the NCA All-Star Nationals

So what do you do if you were exposed to mumps in Dallas?

While mumps is a vaccine-preventable disease, even kids who have gotten two MMR shots can still get mumps. That’s because waning immunity causes the vaccine to become less effective over time.

Still, mumps is not nearly as contagious as other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles. You generally have to have close contact with someone with mumps to catch it.

“The mumps virus replicates in the upper respiratory tract and spreads through direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva or through fomites. The risk of spreading the virus increases the longer and the closer the contact a person has with someone who has mumps.”

CDC on Mumps for Healthcare Providers

Unless you were on the same team as the person with mumps (if it was a cheerleader), your risk of getting sick probably isn’t that high. Of course, the risk goes up the more contact you had.

Mumps is not just for kids anymoreUnfortunately, neither a post-exposure dose of MMR nor immune globulin work to prevent mumps after you are already exposed.

At this point, whether or not your child is vaccinated, all you can do is wait and watch to see if they develop signs or symptoms of mumps.

With an incubation period of 12 to 25 days, that means that those who were exposed could get sick between March 7 and March 22.

While there is no treatment for mumps, you do want to watch for complications and make sure you don’t expose anyone else.

And if your child is unvaccinated, this exposure is a good reminder that outbreaks still happen, vaccines are necessary, and this is a good time to get caught up.

Mumps and Cheer

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time we are hearing about mumps at a cheer competition.

In 2016, mumps exposures at several cheer competitions in North Texas led to at least 11 cases of mumps.

Why cheer? It’s not cheer, but the nature of cheer competitions. You just have a lot of older kids together at these competitions from a lot of different places and the MMR vaccine is known to have an issue with waning immunity.

Fortunately, most of these kids are vaccinated, which helps keep these outbreaks from really getting out of control, like they did in the pre-vaccine era.

What to Know About Mumps at the NCA All-Star Nationals

Tens of thousands of kids could have been exposed to mumps at a cheerleader competition in Dallas.

More on Mumps at the NCA All-Star Nationals

 

 

 

Do Your Kids Need a Mumps Booster Shot?

Traditionally, kids get vaccines to protect them against mumps when they are 12 to 15 months old (1st dose of MMR) and again before starting kindergarten (2nd dose of MMR).

Do Your Kids Need a Mumps Booster Shot?

Routine use of the mumps vaccine, which was first licensed in 1967, has helped to greatly reduce the incidence of mumps cases from pre-vaccine era levels.

Outbreaks of mumps the last few years have led to calls for a third dose of MMR in some situations though.

mumps-booster
During an outbreak, universities make sure students are up-to-date with their MMR vaccines.

Does that mean that your kids will need a third dose of the MMR vaccine?

Probably not.

“Persons previously vaccinated with 2 doses of a mumps virus–containing vaccine who are identified by public health authorities as being part of a group or population at increased risk for acquiring mumps because of an outbreak should receive a third dose of a mumps virus–containing vaccine to improve protection against mumps disease and related complications.”

Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of a Third Dose of Mumps Virus–Containing Vaccine in Persons at Increased Risk for Mumps During an Outbreak

Is there a mumps outbreak in your area?

While that is the main reason to get a third dose of MMR, simply being near an outbreak still doesn’t mean an extra vaccine is necessary.

“In the setting of an identified mumps outbreak, public health authorities should define target groups at increased risk for mumps during the outbreak, determine whether vaccination of at-risk persons is indicated, and provide recommendations for vaccination to health care providers.”

Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of a Third Dose of Mumps Virus–Containing Vaccine in Persons at Increased Risk for Mumps During an Outbreak

Your local or state health department will decide which folks need a third dose of MMR in an outbreak situation.

“Persons at increased risk for acquiring mumps are those who are more likely to have prolonged or intense exposure to droplets or saliva from a person infected with mumps, such as through close contact or sharing of drinks or utensils.”

Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of a Third Dose of Mumps Virus–Containing Vaccine in Persons at Increased Risk for Mumps During an Outbreak

Why not just give everyone a third dose of MMR?

The issue with the mumps vaccine is waning immunity, so it isn’t known how long an extra dose would last, and that’s why at this time, the only recommendation is to give an extra dose during outbreaks.

If you are still unsure about needing a third dose of MMR, ask your pediatrician, school health clinic, or local health department, especially if you have heard about local mumps cases.

What to Know About the Mumps Booster Shot

A third dose of MMR is recommended for some people at high risk to get mumps in an outbreak situation.

More on the Mumps Booster Shot

Do More Vaccinated or Unvaccinated Kids Get Sick in Outbreaks?

Some anti-vaccine folks continue to claim that vaccines don’t work and that most outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are actually caused by kids who have been vaccinated.

They also push the myth that more vaccinated than unvaccinated kids get sick in most outbreaks.

Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated in an Outbreak

So are outbreaks usually caused by kids who have been vaccinated?

No, of course not.

Do we sometimes see more vaccinated than unvaccinated kids in some of these outbreaks?

Yes, sometimes we do.

Vaccine Epidemiology

Wait, what?

Yes, we sometimes see more vaccinated than unvaccinated kids in an outbreak.

How can that be if vaccines work?

It is actually very easy to understand once you learn a little math and a little more epidemiology.

Basically, it is because while vaccines work, they don’t work 100% of the time, and more importantly, there are way more vaccinated kids around than unvaccinated kids.

The Mathematics of Disease Outbreaks

That means that you need to understand that more than the absolute number of vaccinated and unvaccinated people that got sick in an outbreak, you really want to know the percentages of vaccinated vs unvaccinated kids who got sick.

For example, in a school with 1,000 kids, you might be very surprised if six kids got a vaccine preventable disease, and three of them were vaccinated, leaving three unvaccinated.

Does that really mean that equal amounts of vaccinated and unvaccinated kids got sick?

I guess technically, but in the practical sense, it only would if half of the kids in the school were unvaccinated. Now unless they go to a Waldorf school, it is much more likely that over 90 to 95% of the kids were vaccinated, in which case, a much higher percentage of unvaccinated kids got sick.

Before we use a real world example, some terms to understand include:

  • attack rate – how many people will get sick when exposed to a disease
  • basic reproductive number or Ro – different for each disease, Ro basically tells you  just how contagious a disease is and ranges from about 1.5 for flu, 8 for chicken pox, and 15 for measles
  • vaccine coverage – how many people are vaccinated
  • vaccine efficacy – how well a vaccine works

You also need to know some formulas:

  • attack rate = new cases/total in group
  • vaccine coverage rate = number of people who are fully vaccinated / number of people who are eligible to be vaccinated
  • vaccine effectiveness = (attack rate in unvaccinated group – attack rate in vaccinated group) / attack rate in unvaccinated group x 100

Unfortunately, it is often hard to use these formulas in most outbreaks.

Why?

For one thing, it is hard to get accurate information on the vaccination status of all of the people in the outbreak. In addition to those who are confirmed to be vaccinated or unvaccinated, there is often a large number who’s vaccination status is unknown. And even if you know the vaccination status of everyone in the outbreak, it can be even harder to get the vaccine coverage rate or a neighborhood or city.

Outbreaks of Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Reports of measles outbreaks among highly vaccinated populations are from before we started doing a second dose in 1994.
Reports of measles outbreaks among highly vaccinated populations are from before we started doing a second dose of MMR… way back in 1994.

We know what starts most outbreaks.

And no, it’s not shedding

For example, with measles, it is typically an unvaccinated person who travels out of the country, returns home after they have been exposed but are still in their incubation period, and then exposes others once they get sick. And the great majority of folks in these measles outbreaks are unvaccinated.

Some examples of these outbreaks include:

  • the 2014 Ohio measles outbreak that started with two unvaccinated Amish men getting measles in the Philippines while on a missionary trip and ended up with at least 388 cases before it was over, almost all unvaccinated
  • a 2013 North Carolina measles outbreak with 22 cases started after an unvaccinated traveler had returned from India
  • an outbreak of measles in New York, in 2013, with at least 58 cases, tarted with an intentionally unvaccinated teen returning from a trip to London
  • a 2011 outbreak of measles in Minnesota, when an unvaccinated child traveled out of the country, developed measles, and returned to his undervaccinated community, causing the state’s largest measles outbreak in 20 years

But what about mumps and pertussis?

Those outbreaks are all among vaccinated kids, right?

Nope.

In one of the biggest mumps outbreak, in Arkansas, only 71% of people were up-to-date on their vaccines!

And keep in mind that while we do know that there are issues with waning immunity with some vaccines, you are still much more likely to become infected and get others sick if you are not vaccinated. And you will likely have a much more severe disease.

A 2013 pertussis outbreak in Florida is a good example that even with all the bad press it gets, the DTaP and Tdap vaccines work too. This outbreak was started by an unvaccinated child at a charter school with high rates of unvaccinated kids. About 30% of unvaccinated kids got sick, while there was only one case “in a person who reported having received any vaccination against pertussis.”

In another 2013 pertussis outbreak in Florida, this time in a preschool, although most of the kids were vaccinated, the outbreak started with “a 1-year-old vaccine-exempt preschool student.” And the classroom with the highest attack rate, was “one in which a teacher with a laboratory-confirmed case of pertussis who had not received a Tdap booster vaccination, worked throughout her illness.”

In outbreak after outbreak, we see the same thing, sometimes with deadly consequences – an unvaccinated child or adult triggers an outbreak and then a lot of unvaccinated folks get sick. Unfortunately, others get caught up in these outbreaks too, including those too young to be vaccinated, those who can’t be vaccinated because of true medical exemptions, and those whose vaccines may not have worked as well as we would have liked.

Get educated.

Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are necessary. Vaccines work.

What to Know About Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated in Outbreaks

Most outbreaks are started by someone who is unvaccinated, often after a trip out of the country, and the resulting outbreak will likely get many more unvaccinated than vaccinated folks sick.

More About Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated in Outbreaks

Did Your Hepatitis B Antibody Test Come Back Negative?

Hepatitis B can be prevented.Three doses of the hepatitis B vaccines have been shown to provide long lasting protection in most people.

Do you need to get your titers checked to make sure you are immune?

Usually not. Simply being fully vaccinated with the  vaccine is  good enough evidence that you are immune in most, but not all circumstances.

A few circumstances in which you might need to be tested can include:

  • a baby who was born to a HBsAg (hepatitis B surface antigen) mother
  • being a healthcare worker who has a job and who is in a work setting that puts them at higher risk for exposure to blood or body fluids from patients who are positive for HBsAg
  • being immunocompromised, so you are not sure if the vaccine is going to work, or patients requiring chronic dialysis
  • someone who has sex or shares needles with a person who has a chronic hepatitis B infection

The screening test for vaccine immunity that is done checks the persons level of anti-HBs (antibody to the hepatitis B surface antigen). It should be done one to two months after your last dose of hepatitis B vaccine, but not later.

“Persons determined to have anti-HBs concentrations of ≥10 mIU/mL after receipt of the primary vaccine series are considered immune, and the result should be documented. Immunocompetent persons have long-term protection and do not need further periodic testing to assess anti-HBs levels.”

CDC on Immunization of Health-Care Personnel

The alternative to screening healthcare workers after they complete their vaccination series is to do postexposure management. In this method, in the case of a needlestick or other blood or body fluid exposure, both the source patient and the health care worker are tested and postexposure prophylaxis is given as necessary.

Don’t pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B? They do, but not to see if they are immune from immunization. They routinely have a HBsAg test to see if they have a chronic hepatitis B infection, which can be passed on to their baby.

Other screening tests that can be done include anti-HBc (antibody to hepatitis B core antigen) and IgM anti-HBc (IgM subclass to hepatitis B core antigen). These two tests can help you figure out if a person has an acute infection or is immune from a past infection.

Non-Immune Hepatitis B Titer Levels

Why check the anti-HBs level?

Because of the devastating effects of chronic hepatitis B infections, it is good to have all of the information you can get to help prevent a possible infection if you are exposed to blood or body fluids while working.

Having a positive anti-HBs level, typically defined as a level of ≥10 IU/mL, means that you are immune and protected.

But what if your level is negative? What if your level is <10 IU/mL after you have already gotten three doses of hepatitis B vaccine?

Then you get another dose of hepatitis B vaccine and the level is checked again in one to two months. If it is still <10 IU/mL, then you get two more doses of hepatitis B vaccine and the level is checked again in one to two months.

If you are still negative after six or more doses of hepatitis B vaccine, then you are considered a non-responder. You would then require postexposure testing and possible prophylaxis if you are exposed to a patient’s blood or body fluids.

What If You Lost Your Hepatitis B Immunity?

There is a reason that they don’t recommend testing more than one to two months after your last dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

“Studies indicate that immunologic memory remains intact for at least 20 years and confers protection against clinical illness and chronic HBV infection, even though anti-HBs levels that once measured adequate might become low or decline below detectable levels. If one is challenged with HBV, people whose immune systems are competent will mount an anamnestic response and develop protective anti-HBs.”

Immunization Action Coalition on Hepatitis B Questions

It is known that anti-HBs levels can decrease over time.

Fortunately, this does not lead to waning immunity in typical circumstances. Because of an anamnestic response, the hepatitis B vaccine provides long lasting protection, even if your antibody levels appear to have dropped.

Avoiding Hepatitis B

Since health care workers should practice universal precautions whether or not they are immune to hepatitis B, being a non-responder isn’t going to change how you do things too much.

Plus, there are other diseases that are not yet vaccine preventable that you could get if you are stuck with a needle, so you are hopefully still very careful, no matter how immune you are to hepatitis B.

Still, it is very nice to have one less thing to worry about in this situation.

“Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated persons who experience a workplace exposure from persons known to be HBsAg-positive should receive 1 dose of hepatitis B immune globulin HBIG (i.e., passive vaccination) as soon as possible after exposure (preferably within 24 hours).”

CDC on Immunization of Health-Care Personnel

If you are a non-responder and and are exposed to hepatitis B, then one thing that is different is that you will likely require two doses of HBIG (hepatitis B immune globulin) for protection. Others can get one dose of HBIG and can repeat the hepatitis B vaccine. Those who are fully vaccinated and known to be immune likely won’t have to do anything to protect themselves from hepatitis B, although each incident should be investigated to make sure.

But it is not just healthcare workers who are at risk for accidental needlesticks. What if a healthcare worker sticks themselves and then you or your child? Or what if your child gets stuck with a discarded needle at the park?

What to Know About Hepatitis B Titers

Get vaccinated and follow the latest guidelines if you are exposed to hepatitis B, especially if you are a non-responder to the vaccine with low titer levels.

More on Hepatitis B Titers and Immunity