To study the effect of postexposure vaccination, four chimpanzees were vaccinated with hepatitis B (HB) vaccine 4, 8, 48, and 72 hr, respectively, after intravenous injection of an infectious hepatitis B virus (HBV) inoculum. The second and third vaccine inoculations were given 2 and 6 weeks later, i.e., at considerably shorter intervals than recommended either for ordinary prophylactic vaccination or for postexposure vaccination in combination with hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG).
The chimpanzees were followed for 1 year. None showed HBs-antigenemia, liver enzyme elevation (ALT), or histopathological alterations in liver biopsies. Late appearance of anti-HBc was observed only in the serum of the animal whose series of vaccination started 72 hr after HBV inoculation. An unvaccinated control chimpanzee, which received the HBV inoculum only, developed clinical hepatitis B with ALT-elevations and HBs-antigenemia within 2 months of the experimental HBV inoculation.
These results indicate that postexposure vaccination against hepatitis B begun within 48 hr after HBV exposure, with short intervals between the vaccine injections, can protect against hepatitis B infection also when concomitant HBIG-prophylaxis is not given.