The HepA vaccine provides long-term protection against the highly contagious hepatitis A virus. Certain groups are advised to vaccinate against hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection that can lead to symptoms like jaundice, fatigue, and abdominal pain. While outbreaks of Hepatitis A may be less common in the Western world, they can still occur.
The Hepatitis A vaccine provides long-term protection against this virus. By getting vaccinated, you can safeguard yourself against Hepatitis A and its potential complications.
The Hepatitis A vaccine (HepA vaccine) was first licensed for use in the 1990s. In the United States, there are two types of inactivated HepA vaccines available, as well as a combination vaccine that protects against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
A live attenuated vaccine (a weakened or modified form of the virus), which is not available in the United States, is also an option in some other countries.
The vaccine triggers the immune system to produce antibodies that specifically target the hepatitis A virus. These antibodies circulate throughout the bloodstream, ready to neutralize the virus in the event of exposure.
The hep A vaccine is administered in a two-dose series, with the second dose given 6 to 12 months after the initial dose. It provides long-term protection.
Hepatitis A is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It’s primarily transmitted through the fecal-oral route, either by touching feces directly or consuming food or water that carry the virus.
The virus primarily affects the liver and can result in symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and dark urine. But most cases of hepatitis A resolve on their own without long-term complications, and recovery provides lifelong immunity.
Hepatitis A symptoms
Symptoms of hepatitis A may include:
- jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- dark urine
- pale stools
- joint pain
- itchy skin
- Children: The HepA vaccine is routinely given to children between 12 and 23 months of age.
- Travelers: People traveling to countries or regions with high rates of hepatitis A infection, especially developing countries, are advised to get the vaccine.
- People with chronic liver disease: Individuals with chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B or hepatitis C, are at a higher risk of complications if they contract hepatitis A.
- Men who have sex with men: Due to an increased risk of hepatitis A transmission in this population, vaccination is recommended for men who have sex with other men.
- Illegal drug use: According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who use illegal drugs — including non-injection types — should be vaccinated for hepatitis A.
- Individuals with clotting factor disorders: People with clotting factor disorders, like hemophilia, are recommended to receive the hepatitis A vaccine due to their increased risk of bleeding and potential exposure to blood products that may be carrying HAV.
- Food handlers: People who work as food handlers can contract hepatitis A and potentially pass it on to others. It’s recommended that employees receive the vaccination if it’s deemed necessary by state or local health authorities or their employers.
The HepA vaccine is considered safe for both children and adults. Early safety
It’s been observed that there’s a slightly higher incidence of side effects after the first dose compared to the second dose.
Is HepA required for school?
The requirement for HepA vaccination for school entry can vary depending on the country, state, or even specific school district. It’s a mandatory requirement for school entry in about half of U.S. states.
Evidence also suggests that a two-dose HepA vaccine can provide immunity for at least 33 years in 95% of vaccinated individuals.
Hepatitis A vaccine schedule for adults
For adults, the recommended schedule for the HepA vaccine in adults is as follows:
- First dose: The initial dose is given at any time as a starting point.
- Second dose: The second dose is administered 6 to 18 months after the first dose. This interval allows for optimal protection and long-term immunity against hepatitis A.
It’s important to complete the full vaccine schedule to ensure maximum effectiveness.
The HepA vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect against hepatitis A.
It’s recommended that various populations — including children, travelers to high risk areas, individuals with chronic liver disease, and others — be vaccinated against hepatitis A. The vaccine provides long lasting immunity and helps prevent the spread of the virus.
If you’re considering getting the hepatitis A vaccine, talk with a doctor for personalized advice based on your specific circumstances.