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Facts About...

HEPATITIS A VACCINE


What is it?

Hepatitis A vaccine protects against hepatitis A, a very contagious liver infection caused by a virus. Some people do not get any symptoms, but others can be very ill for several months. Durham Region Health Department provides free hepatitis A vaccine to those who are eligible to receive publicly funded vaccine. Hepatitis A vaccine is available by prescription, through your health care provider or travel clinic.

How effective is the hepatitis A vaccine?

Hepatitis A vaccine can provide at least 90-97% protection against the hepatitis A virus in most healthy adults and children who receive a complete series. Protection against hepatitis A occurs within 2 weeks after receiving vaccine and lasts for at least 20 years. The hepatitis A vaccine does not prevent you from hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections.

Who should receive the vaccine?

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for anyone who is 1 year of age and older, and at increased risk of hepatitis A infection including: travellers to or immigrants from areas where hepatitis A is common, household or close contacts of adopted children from hepatitis A infected countries, populations or communities with a high rate of hepatitis A infection, injection drug users, men who have sex with men (MSM), people with chronic liver disease, those infected with hepatitis C, people with hemophilia A or B, military personnel and humanitarian relief workers in areas with high rates of hepatitis A, zoo-keepers, veterinarians and researchers who handle non-human primates, workers involved in research or production of hepatitis A vaccine, and any person who wishes to decrease his or her risk of hepatitis A.

The following people are eligible for publicly funded hepatitis A vaccination free of charge: persons with chronic liver disease (including hepatitis B and hepatitis C), persons who are intravenous or injection drug users, and MSM.

What is the schedule for the vaccine?

Two doses of the vaccine are needed for lasting protection. These doses should be given 6-36 months apart depending on the product. Hepatitis A vaccine may be given at the same time as other routine vaccine(s), but at a different site with a different needle.

Are there side effects with the vaccine?

Most people have no side effects with the vaccines. Side effects are usually mild and go away on their own in 1-2 days. The most common side effects are soreness and redness where the shot was given. Other less frequent side effects may include headache, irritability, malaise, fever, fatigue, and gastrointestinal symptoms.

However, if you think a serious reaction is developing, seek medical attention right away. Unusual or significant changes to your health or your child's health after receiving vaccine should be reported to a health care provider and the Health Department.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Individuals who have had a serious allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of hepatitis A vaccine, children less than 1 year of age, and those with a known allergy to any component of the hepatitis A vaccine should not receive hepatitis A vaccine. If you have a high fever or serious infection, worse than a cold, you should wait until you recover before getting the vaccine.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should discuss the need for hepatitis A vaccine with their health care provider before vaccination.

June 24, 2016