What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation affecting your liver's ability to function. It is usually spread through the ingestion of contaminated food or water or close contact including sexual relations with someone who is already infected. Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.
What is the hepatitis A vaccine?
The Hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent infection and is safe and effective. The vaccine, given in two doses six months apart, is injected into the arm or thigh muscle. Both shots are needed for long-term protection.
Who should get the hepatitis A vaccine?
- The CDC recommends all children at age 1 year
- Travelers to countries that have high rates of hepatitis A
- Men who have sexual contact with other men
- Users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs
- People with chronic (lifelong) liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- People who are treated with clotting-factor concentrates for hemophilia or another medical condition
- People who work with hepatitis A infected animals or in a hepatitis A research laboratory
Who should not get the hepatitis A vaccine?
- Anyone with a life-threatening allergy to any vaccine component should not get the vaccine. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any severe allergies. All hepatitis A vaccines contain aluminum and some hepatitis A vaccines contain 2-phenoxyethanol.
- Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of hepatitis A vaccine should not get another dose.
- Anyone who is moderately ill should wait until they recover.
- Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant. The safety of hepatitis A vaccine for pregnant women has not been determined. But there is no evidence that it is harmful to either pregnant women or their unborn babies. The risk, if any, is thought to be very low.
What are the side effects of the hepatitis A vaccine?
- Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
- Headache, tiredness, and loss of appetite
Severe problems (rare):
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Fast heartbeat
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.
It's extremely rare for these vaccines to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, seek immediate medical attention.
The hepatitis A vaccine is available at:
Healthcare Clinic for patients aged 7+.1
Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.
Walk in or schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.
Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.
Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.
Vaccine Information Statement: Hepatitis A Vaccine (What You Need to Know) October 25, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-hep-a.pdf. Accessed April 2013.
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