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Vaccines to Prevent Hepatitis A

Vaccine Basics

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccination is recommended for all children age 12 months and older, for travelers to certain countries, and for people at high risk for infection with the virus.

The hepatitis A vaccine is given as two shots, six months apart. The hepatitis A vaccine also comes in a combination form, containing both hepatitis A and B vaccine, that can be given to persons 18 years of age and older. This form is given as three shots, over a period of six months or as three shots over one month and a booster shot at 12 months.

For Children

 

Getting hepatitis A vaccine is much safer than getting the disease. But a vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems such as severe allergic reactions. Learn more about possible side effects of hepatitis A vaccine.

 

The first dose should be given at 12-23 months of age. Children who are not vaccinated by two years of age can be vaccinated at later visits.

For Travelers

The first dose of hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for healthy international travelers younger than 40 years of age at any time before departure. A shot called immune globulin (IG) can be considered in addition to hepatitis A vaccine for older adults, immunocompromised persons, and persons with chronic liver disease or other chronic medical conditions who are traveling within two weeks. 

IG without hepatitis A vaccine can be given to travelers who are younger than 12 months of age, allergic to a vaccine component, or who elect not to receive vaccine.

For Others

The hepatitis A vaccine series may be started whenever a person is at risk of infection:

  • Men who have sexual contact with other men
  • Users of certain illegal drugs, both injection and non-injection
  • Family and caregivers before arrival of international adoptees
  • People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates
  • People who work with hepatitis A infected animals or in a hepatitis A research laboratory

Some people should not be vaccinated or should wait to get vaccinated

  • Anyone who has ever had a severe (life threatening) allergic reaction to a previous dose of hepatitis A vaccine should not get another dose.
  • Anyone who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any vaccine component should not get the vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies. All hepatitis A vaccines contain alum and some hepatitis A vaccines contain 2-phenoxyethanol.
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should probably wait until they recover. Ask your doctor or nurse. People with a mild illness can usually get the vaccine.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant. The safety of hepatitis A vaccine for pregnant women has not been determined. But there is no evidence that it is harmful to either pregnant women or their unborn babies. The risk, if any, is thought to be very low.
About Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

 

Many people do not have symptoms of hepatitis A, especially young children. If you do have symptoms, they can include: yellow skin or eyes, tiredness, stomach ache, loss of appetite, or nausea.

Learn more »

 

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter — even in microscopic amounts — from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of an infected person.

“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with hepatitis A usually improve without treatment.

Hepatitis A is usually spread when the Hepatitis A virus is taken in by mouth from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person. A person can get Hepatitis A through:

  • Person to person contact
    • when an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and touches other objects or food
    • when a parent or caregiver does not properly wash his or her hands after changing diapers or cleaning up the stool of an infected person
    • when someone engages in certain sexual activities, such as oral-anal contact with an infected person
  • Contaminated food or water
    • Hepatitis A can be spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus. This is more likely to occur in countries where hepatitis A is common and in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene.
    • In the United States, chlorination of water kills hepatitis A virus that enters the water supply.

Who gets Hepatitis A?

Although anyone can get hepatitis A, in the United States, certain groups of people are at higher risk, such as those who:

  • Travel to or live in countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Are men who have sexual contact with other men
  • Use illegal drugs, whether injected or not
  • Have clotting-factor disorders, such as hemophilia
  • Live with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Have sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A
Take Action

Ready to get vaccinated?

 
 

Microscopic view of hepatitis A.

 

Read more about the hepatitis A vaccine:

Going to get vaccinated:

Travel:

  • Hepatitis A is more common in some countries than others. Find out if you should be vaccinated before you travel abroad.