Every year hepatitis A virus affects 1.4 million people around the world and as many as 32,000 in the United States. This figure is very unfortunate because the risk of virus goes down substantially by just having access to clean water and regular hand washing. In addition, vaccine for hepatitis A is also available to stop the infection from ever happening in an individual. In short, the disease should not affect so many people worldwide because it can be prevented so easily.
What Is Hepatitis A Vaccine?
The vaccine used to stop hepatitis A virus from happening is called hepatitis A Vaccine. The vaccine is produced by using whole hepatitis A virus which is killed. Since the virus is not alive, a person cannot have hepatitis A from the vaccine. The vaccination works by helping the body in producing antibodies to fight the hepatitis A virus. These antibodies will help the body to fight off the virus in the future.
Brief Introduction of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A virus causes the hepatitis A disease which has an impulsive start and increases abruptly and finishes in a short time. The disease is associated with bad sanitation condition, intake of unhygienic food and water and close contact with people having the disease.
Every one in five patients diagnosed with hepatitis A need hospitalization for their treatment and for every 1000 patients with the disease, 3 to 5 people will die. Diarrhea, pain in the stomach, jaundice and flu are some indicators of the disease.
Who Should Take Hepatitis A Vaccine?
Once you have recovered from hepatitis A, the body creates antibodies to fight the infection. Thus, you will no longer need vaccination if you have had the disease.
Children aged less than one year cannot be vaccinated because there is no licensed vaccine available for them in the United States. The children between 12 to 23 months of age are advised to be vaccinated by the CDC with the hepatitis A vaccine.
Healthy international travelers who are not older than 40 years are suggested to get hepatitis A vaccination’s first dose before traveling internationally. People who are more than 40 years old can also get an immune globulin (IG) shot in addition to the hepatitis A vaccine. The same can be given to people who have a weakened immune system and who have a chronic medical or liver condition two weeks before going on their travel. Those who do not want to get the hepatitis A vaccine because they are allergic to a component of the vaccine or a less than one year old can also opt to just get a shot of IG.
The hepatitis A vaccine is supposed to be used by all those who are more than 12 months old and are at a greater risk of getting infected by the virus. Moreover, people living in a locality where the rate of disease is greater should also get vaccinated. Such people include:
- People in the military
- Bisexual and homosexual males, who are involved in sex activity that is risky
- Those in the laboratory who work with the hepatitis A virus
- People who work in child day care centers
- Those responsible for dealing with food products and items
- Users of illegal injections and drugs
- People who live or move through areas where hepatitis A virus infects more people
- Those who work in mental hospitals or facilities where such people are cared for
- Those who are responsible for handling primate animals
- People who suffer from a recurrent liver disease
- People who have compromised blood clotting ability
Who Should Not Take Hepatitis A Vaccine?
There are certain people who should not take hepatitis A vaccination. They are:
- A person who has had life threatening allergic reaction should inform about that reaction to his doctor. In case the reaction was because of a vaccine component, the person should not take the vaccine. Alum is present in all hepatitis A vaccines and 2-phenoxyethanol is part of some vaccines.
- A person who is suffering from an illness at the time of vaccination should get their vaccine to be scheduled later. Anyway, the best thing is to consult your doctor if you are in the circumstance.
- You should inform your physician in case you are pregnant at the time of vaccination. Though the vaccination contains killed virus and there is not much risk to both mother and fetus, yet it is better to let the physician look at the risks before getting the vaccination.
When to Take Hepatitis A Vaccine
HAVRIX and VAQTA are the two main hepatitis A vaccines available in the United States. Both are very similar as both require two doses and can be administered to any one more than one year old. In both these vaccines, the first dose makes your body ready to receive the vaccine while the second dose is to be administered after 6 to 12 months after the first dose. The second dose provides the immunization from the disease.
TWINRIX is another vaccination available for hepatitis A. The vaccine also provides protection against hepatitis B. It has to be administered in 3 doses and can only be given to people more than 18 years old.
All vaccines make a person immune to the virus for up to 25 years in case he is an adult and for 14 to 20 years, if the person is a child.
What Are the Side Effects of Hepatitis A Vaccine?
There are very few risks of a hepatitis A vaccine causing serious side effects. It is much safer to get the vaccine than the disease. However, in case any of the following symptoms appear, you should straight away contact your physician.
- A feeling of lethargy that has no apparent reason
- Temperature reaching more than 99.5 °F
- A feeling of sickness
In addition to these side effects, the vaccine might cause additional side effects which do not require medical care. These effects would go away as the body adapts to the medicine. In case these side effects persist, you should get in contact with your physician:
- Loss of weight
- Pain in the arm
- Loss of blood between periods
- A decrease in body strength
- Redness, aching or swelling at the place where vaccine was injected
- The pattern of periods is altered
- The injection site feels warm and soft
- Menstrual bleeding stops suddenly