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Hepatitis A Vaccine

Facts about hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the stool of persons with hepatitis A and is commonly spread by close personal contact and sometimes by eating food or drinking water containing HAV. Two doses of vaccine, given at least 6 months apart, are needed for lasting protection. Hepatitis A vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Who should get hepatitis A vaccine and when:

  • Persons 2 years of age and older traveling or working in countries with high rates of hepatitis A, such as those located in Central or South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Asia (except Japan), Africa, and southern or eastern Europe. The vaccine should be started at least one month before traveling.
  • Persons with chronic liver disease.
  • Persons who receive clotting factor concentrates.
  • Persons who live in communities with high rates of hepatitis A: for example, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander communities and some religious communities.

Some people who should not get hepatitis A or should wait:

  • People who have ever had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of hepatitis A vaccine should not get another dose.
  • People who are mildly ill at the time the shot is scheduled should get the vaccine. Those with moderate or severe illnesses should wait until they recover.
  • The safety of hepatitis A vaccine for pregnant women is not yet known. But any risk to either the pregnant woman or the fetus is thought to be very low.

What are the risks for patients from hepatitis A vaccine?

The risk of hepatitis A vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small, however, mild side effects may arise, such as:

  • Soreness where the shot was given (about 1 out of 2 adults, and up to 1 out of 5 children).
  • Headache (about 1 out of 6 adults and 1 out of 20 children).
  • Loss of appetite (about 1 out of 12 children).
  • Tiredness (about 1 out of 14 adults).

In the event of a moderate or severe reaction, physicians should ascertain the date and time of the reaction as well as when the vaccination was administered. Physicians should contact the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) at 1-800-822-7967 or on the web.

Additional information is available from the CDC on Hepatitis A.

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