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 years 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
Infants 6 through 11 months old traveling outside the United States when protection against hepatitis A is recommended should receive 1 dose of hepatitis A vaccine. These children should still get 2 additional doses at the recommended ages for long-lasting protection.
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 also recommended for the following people:
- International travelers
- Men who have sexual contact with other 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
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 as soon as possible and 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 vaccination 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 until a future visit.
Pregnant or breastfeeding people should be vaccinated if they are at risk for getting hepatitis A. Pregnancy or breastfeeding are not reasons to avoid hepatitis A vaccination.
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 vaccination.
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 www.vaers.hhs.gov or call 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions, and VAERS staff members 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. Claims regarding alleged injury or death due to vaccination have a time limit for filing, which may be as short as two years. 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.
7. How can I learn more?
- Ask your health care provider.
- Call your local or state health department.
- Visit the website of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for vaccine package inserts and additional information at www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines.
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 October 15, 2021. Accessed October 20, 2021.
Review Date: 10/15/2021
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.