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Viral Hepatitis and Hepatitis A Vaccine

Written by ColleenO.

A vaccine is not a treatment for hepatitis infection, but it may help keep someone from becoming infected in the first place. The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children aged 12-24 months and people who are at high risk for contracting the virus. (See How to Use Hepatitis A Vaccine, below, for more information.)

This vaccine contains a killed or inactivated form of the hepatitis A virus. It is given as an injection in the arm.

A combined vaccine that protects against both hepatitis A and B is also available.

Effect of Hepatitis A Vaccine on Viral Hepatitis

By preparing the immune system ahead of time, the vaccine may prevent infection in someone who is exposed to the virus.

Read more details about Hepatitis A Vaccine.

How to Use Hepatitis A Vaccine

The vaccine is recommended for all children aged 12-24 months. The two doses of the series are given six months apart. Children who have not been vaccinated can receive the shot at their next doctor's visit.

The following individuals should also get vaccinated:

  • Children aged 23 months or older living in high-risk areas
  • People traveling to areas where hepatitis A is prevalent (The CDC's Traveler's Health website shows which areas have a high prevalence of hepatitis A.)
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Injection drug users
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with blood-clotting disorders, like hemophilia
  • People who will have close contact with an adopted child from a medium- or high-risk area
  • People who desire immunity to hepatitis A

In general, people who are traveling should get the first dose 2-4 weeks before leaving the United States. Anytime before traveling is also okay.

Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment

Medical practitioner who is trained to give injections (MD, nurse, physician's assistant, etc.).

What Are the Risks Associated With the Hepatitis A Vaccine?

There is a risk of severe allergic reaction, with symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin rash
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Wheezing

Less common moderate side effects include:

  • Soreness at the site of injection
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

The following individuals should not get vaccinated:

  • Children under one year of age
  • Anyone who has already had hepatitis A
  • Anyone who has previously had a severe allergic reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine
  • Anyone who has previously had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the hepatitis A vaccine (including alum or 2-phenoxyethanol or neomycin)
  • Anyone who is ill (If you are sick, wait until you have recovered.)

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