What is the Hepatitis A (“Hep A”) Vaccine?
Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver that can cause varied symptoms including nausea, fever, malaise, dark urine, jaundice, fatigue and, in some cases, death. It is different from Hepatitis B and C as it does not cause chronic liver disease. Hepatitis A is primarily transmitted via contaminated food and water or fecal matter. Globally, there are approximately 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A reported each year.
The Hepatitis A vaccination is formulated to prevent infections from the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and the complications that can arise as a result of infection. Hepatitis A vaccines do not protect against Hepatitis B or C.
Hepatitis A vaccination does not contain live virus, so you cannot get hepatitis from the vaccine. The vaccine works by helping the body produce antibodies that will prevent you from becoming infected with the Hepatitis A virus. Vaccination with the full 2-dose series of the Hepatitis A vaccine, given over a period of 6 to 18 months, is the best way to prevent HAV infection.
Who should receive the Hep A vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children between 12 and 23 months receive the full two-dose series of Hepatitis A vaccination. Additionally, the CDC recommends that children older than 23 months who may be at increased risk for infection be vaccinated.
The CDC further recommends vaccination for people age 12 months or older who may be:
- Traveling to or working in an area of the world with an increased prevalence of Hepatitis A;
- People who have blood clotting disorders;
- People who use street drugs; and,
- People with chronic liver disease.
The Hepatitis A vaccination is not recommended for anyone who has ever had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of Hepatitis A or anyone who has a severe allergy to any vaccine component. In addition, anyone who has an illness at the time the vaccine is to be administered should wait until they recover to receive the vaccination. Lastly, the safety of Hepatitis A vaccine for pregnant or nursing women has not been determined.
How is the Hep A vaccine administered?
Children and adolescents should receive two 0.5ml doses of the Hepatitis A vaccination. The vaccine should be administered by intramuscular injection at a 90-degree angle. The preferred sites for intramuscular injections are the anterolateral aspect of the thigh in young children or the deltoid muscle of the upper arm in older children.