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US panel recommends new adult vaccine against hepatitis B

This undated photo provided by Dynavax on February 2018 shows vials of the Heplisav-B vaccine. It was licensed in the U.S., in November 2017 and is the first new hepatitis B vaccine in 25 years. (Ryan Skinner/Dynavax via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal advisory panel on Wednesday recommended a new vaccine against hepatitis B.

The vaccine, called Heplisav-B, was licensed for use in the U.S. in November and is the first new hepatitis B vaccine in 25 years.

Hepatitis B vaccines have been in childhood shots for decades. But vaccination also is recommended for adults at high risk of infection, including people who inject drugs, health care workers and jail inmates.

The new vaccine made by Dynavax Technologies Corp. is for adults and uses an additive that boosts the body’s immune response. It is given in two shots over a month. Experts hope that will improve vaccination rates, because other vaccines are given in a harder-to-complete regimen of three doses over six months.

Before it was licensed in November, a study found an unexpected number of heart attacks in people who got the vaccine. Dynavax is doing follow-up studies on possible side effects.

The hepatitis B virus can damage the liver and is spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Cases have been rising, a trend linked to the heroin and opioid epidemic. Meanwhile, researchers found older vaccines falter in diabetics and older adults.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices endorsed the vaccine during a meeting in Atlanta. The government usually adopts its recommendations.

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