Hepatitis A vaccines help provide long-term protection from the hepatitis A virus.

The virus causes liver disease that can last from a few weeks to several months. Hepatitis A doesn’t cause chronic liver disease and generally isn’t life-threatening, but symptoms can become severe.

There are several injectable hepatitis A vaccines. None contain a live virus.

  • The Havrix and Vaqta vaccines are approved for anyone who’s at least 1 year old. Two shots are needed for long-term protection. They’re generally given six months apart.
  • Twinrix is a combination hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine intended for people at least 18 years old. The combination vaccine requires three shots over six months to provide long-term protection.

Routine vaccination can start at age one. Or you might also consider getting the vaccine if you’ll be traveling to regions that have poor sanitation or where hepatitis A outbreaks are common.

The hepatitis A vaccine does not protect you from other types of hepatitis.

Keep reading to learn more about who’s at risk of getting hepatitis A, plus the potential benefits and side effects of getting vaccinated.

About half of all people who get the hepatitis A vaccine have no side effects. For most others, side effects are mild, lasting only a day or two. These can include:

  • soreness at the injection site
  • headache
  • feeling tired
  • a slight fever
  • loss of appetite

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less common symptoms that can occur include feeling dizzy, fainting, or shoulder pain that lasts longer than normal after a vaccine.

Severe allergic reaction to a vaccine occurs in about 1 in a million doses. The chance of a vaccine resulting in serious injury or death is remote.

Be sure to inform your doctor of any known allergies.

Although most people fully recover from the hepatitis A virus within a matter of weeks, about 10 to 15 percent are sick for up to six months.

The virus spreads through contaminated food and water or direct person-to-person contact. To combat this, the CDC recommends the vaccine for all children after their first birthday, as it can offer long-term protection from hepatitis A.

You might want to get the vaccine if you’re at increased risk of complications of the hepatitis A virus.

It’s also a good idea to get the vaccine if you’re at increased risk of infection. This would be the case if you plan to travel to a region without proper sanitation or where outbreaks are likely.

The Havrix and Vaqta vaccines are considered safe for people over the age of one. The Twinrix is approved for anyone over age 18.

The vaccine doesn’t contain a live virus, so it’s safe if you have a compromised immune system. You can also get the vaccine during pregnancy.

It may not be safe if you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to a previous hepatitis A vaccine.

If you’re feeling sick, ask your doctor if you should wait until you recover to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor about your medical history and whether the hepatitis A vaccine is right for you.

If you ever had hepatitis A, you’ve got lifelong protection against the virus. You don’t need a vaccine.

Think about getting the vaccine if you’re at increased risk of contracting the hepatitis virus.

You may be at-risk if you:

  • travel to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • travel to areas that have poor sanitation or a lack of safe drinking water
  • are a laboratory worker who may come in contact with the virus
  • may have direct contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • are a man who has sex with men
  • use drugs
  • have hemophilia or another clotting-factor disorder
  • are HIV-positive
  • already have liver disease or another type of hepatitis
  • are currently homeless and living on the streets

Unless there are special circumstances, you don’t necessarily need a vaccination just because you work in food service, health care, or child care.

There’s nothing you need to do in preparation for a hepatitis A vaccine. There are no known risks of getting it at the same time as you get other vaccines. Your doctor will use a different injection site.

Talk to your doctor about all the medications you take. Immunosuppressive therapy may reduce your body’s immune response to the vaccine. Report serious side effects right away.

Get your vaccine as soon as you know you’ll be traveling to a high-risk area. Almost 100 percent of people who get vaccinated develop protective antibodies within a month of a single dose.

If you miss your chance, you can still get vaccinated within two weeks of having been exposed to the virus.

Children between 6 months and 1 year can get the vaccine if they’re at high risk of hepatitis A. Because the immune response may not be adequate at that age, the child can get the vaccine again after age one.

If you don’t get your second dose at the recommended time, you can still get it later. You won’t have to repeat the first dose.

If you happen to get an extra dose, it isn’t harmful, according to the CDC. Also, there’s no cause for concern if one dose was Havrix and the other Vaqta.

The hepatitis A vaccine offers long-term protection against the virus that causes liver disease. As with any vaccine, there are some potential side effects, but it’s generally considered to be a safe and effective vaccine.

Talk to you doctor to find out if you’re at increased risk of hepatitis A and if you should be vaccinated.