Hepatitis B immunisation for First Aiders - OHS Information Sheet

May 2019

  1. Hepatitis B - what is it and how is it transmitted?
    Hepatitis B is a viral disease which affects the liver and is a major public health problem world-wide. Infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) results in serious illness and, in some cases, long-term liver damage including chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis B is transmitted by direct physical contact with infected blood or other infected body fluids or tissues.

  2. Are First Aiders at risk of hepatitis B?
    Yes. First Aiders are expected to be able to manage a variety of injuries, including those associated with blood loss. When treating an injured person, the first aider has no way of knowing whether the person is carrying the hepatitis B virus.

  3. Do infection control procedures give sufficient protection?
    First Aiders are taught and must always use correct infection control procedures (standard precautions). In most cases, these procedures will give protection against hepatitis B. In emergencies, however, there is still the potential to come into direct contact with blood and body fluids.

  4. Is hepatitis B immunisation required for Monash University First Aiders?
    Yes. Any person involved in any aspect of health care (such as First Aiders), whether daily or occasionally, is required to have a hepatitis B immunisation.
    Hepatitis B immunisation is now required for all newly qualified First Aiders and for those renewing their certificate, if these staff are required to act as Monash University First Aiders. Hepatitis B immunisation has been included in the Australian Standard Vaccination Schedule (NHMRC) for childhood immunisations. If you have already been immunised, you will need to provide proof of immunity by attending a blood test.

  5. What does hepatitis B immunisation involve?
    The hepatitis B immunisation schedule requires three injections over a six-month period. The first two injections are given one month apart and the final injection is given six months after the first. A blood test to check immunity is required one month after the third injection.

  6. Does immunity always develop after the 3 injections?
    Experience shows that, for most people, adequate immunity is reached after three injections. It is important to check each person's immunity one month after the third injection. This involves a blood test. If this shows that sufficient immunity to hepatitis B has developed, then no further injections are ever required. If immunity does not develop sufficiently, then further injections will be administered as clinically indicated. Most people require only the basic schedule.

  7. Are there any side effects of the hepatitis B immunisation?
    Overall, reactions to hepatitis B immunisation are few. The most common reaction is an ache, swelling or redness at the injection site and this usually settles after a day or so. Occasional reactions include fever, headache, nausea and fatigue, while more severe reactions are very rare.

  8. What if I have existing health problems?
    If you are unsure about any aspect of your health, you should discuss these concerns with the clinic staff prior to immunisation.

  9. What happens if a First Aider is exposed?
    The most critical step in this pathway is for the first aider to report immediately that there has been, or may have been, exposure to blood or body fluids. This should be done whether or not the first aider is immunised.

    9.1. If a First Aider comes into direct contact with a patient's blood or other body fluids while administering first aid, the First Aider should:
    • Wash the exposed area with warm, soapy water
    • Report the incident immediately to the local Safety Officer who should immediately contact OH&S
    • See a doctor as soon as possible for assessment
    • Complete a hazard and incident report via S.A.R.A.H.

  10. Can I refuse hepatitis B immunisation?
    Hepatitis B immunisation is now required for all Monash University First Aiders and if you have any concerns or queries about this immunisation, contact the Occupational Health Team before commencing first aid training.

  11. When should I commence the hepatitis B immunisation program?
    As soon as first aid training is completed.

  12. I am going to be a Monash University First Aider and have already completed a hepatitis B course. What evidence of this do I need to produce before I commence my training?
    Written evidence of your hepatitis B immunisation is required to be sent to the Occupational Health Team (e.g. a letter from your doctor or blood test result slip, giving details of the hepatitis B immunisation and blood test results).

  13. What if I only partially completed the hepatitis B immunisation course in the past?
    You will need to contact the Occupational Health Team to discuss this further.

  14. Who will arrange hepatitis B immunisation for First Aiders?
    Refer to the Hepatitis B immunisation questionnaire and consent form for further information and direction.

  15. Who pays for the immunisation course and blood test?
    If you are a Monash University First Aider, your department/school/unit pays for the immunisation course and blood test.

Further information

For further information contact the Occupational Health Team at OH&S by phone on 990 51014 or email at BPD-OHNC@monash.edu