The vaccine, called Havrix or VAQTA, is made from inactivated whole virus of hepatitis A. The inactive virus stimulates your body to produce antibodies to fight the hepatitis A virus.
The vaccine is given by a shot in your arm. You should be protected against the disease within 2 weeks after receiving the first dose. Two vaccinations are needed to make sure you are completely protected against the disease. After receiving the first vaccination, children and adults should have a booster vaccination in 6 to 12 months.
A vaccine for adults called Twinrix provides protection against both hepatitis A and B. It is given in 3 doses.
WHO SHOULD RECEIVE THIS VACCINE
People who work or travel in areas with high rates of infection should be vaccinated. These areas include Africa, Asia (except Japan), the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean.
If you are traveling to these areas before you are fully immunized (fewer than 4 weeks after your first shot), you should receive a preventive dose of immunoglobulin (IG). If you are just a short-term traveler to these areas, you may wish to receive the immunoglobulin (IG) instead of the vaccine.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends (but does not mandate) routine vaccination of all children older than age 1 with 2 doses of vaccine spaced 6 months apart.
Other people who are at higher risk for hepatitis A include:
- People who use recreational, injectable drugs
- People who work with the hepatitis A virus in a laboratory or with primates that may be infected with the virus
- People who have chronic liver disease
- People who receive clotting factor concentrate to treat hemophilia or other clotting disorders
- Military personnel
- Homosexual or bisexual men
- Employees of child day-care centers
- People who care for patients living in long-term nursing homes and other facilities
An immunoglobulin (IG) shot helps protect people from becoming infected for a short period of time. When traveling to areas where hepatitis A is common, you may be given an IG shot if:
- You are traveling fewer than 4 weeks after your first hepatitis A immunization, since you may not be fully protected
- You will only be traveling to these areas for a short while and wish to receive the immunoglobulin (IG) instead of the vaccine
WHO SHOULD NOT RECEIVE THIS VACCINE
If you have had hepatitis A in the past, you do NOT need the vaccine. Once you have recovered from the disease, you are immune for life.
Others who should NOT receive the vaccine include:
- People who are allergic to the components of the vaccine
- Children less than 1 year old
- Pregnant or nursing mothers
- Those who are sick or have a fever (can delay receiving the vaccine until the illness goes away)
SIDE EFFECTS AND RISKS
The most common side effect of the vaccine is pain at the injection site. Other rare, but possible, side effects include:
- Redness, swelling, or bruising at the injection site
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
CALL YOUR PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF:
- You develop rash, itching, hives, or difficulty breathing after receiving the vaccine
- You develop any other symptoms
- You have other questions or concerns
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Recommended immunization schedules for children and adolescents--United States, 2008. Pediatrics. 2008;121(1):219-220.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule---United States, 2009. MMWR. January 9, 2009;57(53);Q1-Q4.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years---United States, 2009. MMWR. January 2, 2009;57(51&52);Q1-Q4.