Hepatitis A vaccine - what you need to know
All content below is taken in its entirety from the CDC Hepatitis A Vaccine Information Statement (VIS): www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hep-a.html.
1. Why get vaccinated?
Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease. It is usually spread through close personal contact with an infected person or when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks that are contaminated by small amounts of stool (poop) from an infected person.
Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms, including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, light colored bowel movements). Most children less than 6 years of age do not have symptoms.
A person infected with hepatitis A can transmit the disease to other people even if he or she does not have any symptoms of the disease.
Most people who get hepatitis A feel sick for several weeks, but they usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and death; this is more common in people older than 50 and in people with other liver diseases.
Hepatitis A vaccine has made this disease much less common in the United States. However, outbreaks of hepatitis A among unvaccinated people still happen.
2. Hepatitis A vaccine
Children need 2 doses of hepatitis A vaccine:
- First dose: 12 through 23 months of age
- Second dose: at least 6 months after the first dose
Older children and adolescents 2 through 18 years of age who were not vaccinated previously should be vaccinated.
Adults who were not vaccinated previously and want to be protected against hepatitis A can also get the vaccine.
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for the following people:
- All children aged 12-23 months
- Unvaccinated children and adolescents aged 2-18 years
- International travelers
- Men who have sex with men
- People who use injection or non-injection drugs
- People who have occupational risk for infection
- People who anticipate close contact with an international adoptee
- People experiencing homelessness
- People with HIV
- People with chronic liver disease
- Any person wishing to obtain immunity (protection)
In addition, a person who has not previously received hepatitis A vaccine and who has direct contact with someone with hepatitis A should get hepatitis A vaccine within 2 weeks after exposure.
Hepatitis A vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
3. Talk with your health care provider
Tell your vaccine provider if the person getting the vaccine:
- Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of hepatitis A vaccine, or has any severe, life-threatening allergies.
In some cases, your health care provider may decide to postpone hepatitis A vaccination to a future visit.
People with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting hepatitis A vaccine.
Your health care provider can give you more information.
4. Risks of a vaccine reaction
- Soreness or redness where the shot is given, fever, headache, tiredness, or loss of appetite can happen after hepatitis A vaccine.
People sometimes faint after medical procedures, including vaccination. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.
5. What if there is a serious problem?
An allergic reaction could occur after the vaccinated person leaves the clinic. If you see signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness), call 9-1-1 and get the person to the nearest hospital.
For other signs that concern you, call your health care provider.
Adverse reactions should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your health care provider will usually file this report, or you can do it yourself. Visit the VAERS website at vaers.hhs.gov or call 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions, and VAERS staff do not give medical advice.
6. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines. Visit the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccine-compensation or call 1-800-338-2382 to learn about the program and about filing a claim. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.
7. How can I learn more?
- Ask your health care provider.
- Call your local or state health department.
Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO) or
- Visit CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Vaccine Information Statements (VISs): Hepatitis A vaccine: What you need to know. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hep-a.html. Updated July 28, 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020.