Hepatitis A Vaccination
People usually advised to have the hepatitis A vaccine include:
- close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
- people planning to travel to or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is widespread, particularly if sanitation and food hygiene are expected to be poor
- people with any type of long-term liver disease
- men who have sex with other men
- people who inject illegal drugs
- people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job – this includes sewage workers, people who work for organisations where levels of personal hygiene may be poor, such as a homeless shelter, and people working with monkeys, apes and gorillas
About the vaccine
There are 3 main types of hepatitis A vaccination:
- a vaccine for hepatitis A only
- a combined vaccine for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
- a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and typhoid fever
Plan your vaccinations in advance if you’re travelling abroad. They should ideally be started at least 2 or 3 weeks before you leave, although some can be given up to the day of your departure if necessary.
Extra doses of the vaccine are often recommended after 6 to 12 months if you need long-term protection.
Some people have temporary soreness, redness and hardening of the skin at the injection site after having the hepatitis A vaccine.
A small, painless lump may also form, but it usually disappears quickly and is not a cause for concern.
Less common side effects include:
- a slightly raised temperature
- feeling unwell
- a headache
- feeling sick
- loss of appetite
Overview of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus that’s spread in the poo of an infected person.
It’s uncommon in the UK, but certain groups are at increased risk. This includes travellers to parts of the world with poor levels of sanitation, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.
Hepatitis A can be unpleasant, but it’s not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months.
Some people, particularly young children, may not have any symptoms.
But hepatitis A can occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it can be life threatening if it causes the liver to stop working properly (liver failure).
How is it transmitted?
You can get hepatitis A from:
- eating food prepared by someone with the infection who has not washed their hands properly, or who’s washed them in water contaminated with sewage
- drinking contaminated water, including ice cubes
- eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated water
- close contact with someone who has hepatitis A
- having sex with someone who has the infection, particularly if you touch their anus with your fingers, mouth or tongue
- injecting drugs using equipment contaminated with the hepatitis A virus
Someone with hepatitis A is most infectious from around 2 weeks before they start to develop symptoms until about a week afterwards.