Updated December 2023

Vaccine Brands: Avaxim®, Avaxim® Pediatric, Havrix® 1440, Havrix® 720 Junior, VAQTA® and VAQTA® Pediatric/Adolescent.

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver. The infection can take several weeks to appear. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, stomach pain, and yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice). Some people, especially young children, have no symptoms.

The hepatitis A virus is usually spread by drinking or eating contaminated drinks or food or being in close contact with someone contagious with the virus.

The hepatitis A vaccines are 90 per cent to 97 per cent effective in preventing infection after completing the series. The vaccine may provide less protection in people who have a weakened immune system or liver disease. One dose provides protection after two weeks and it can last for one year. Two doses, given six months or more apart, can protect for 20+ years in healthy individuals

The vaccine is best given before being exposed to the virus. This includes getting the vaccine before you travel to areas where the virus is spreading. Some people will be recommended to receive the vaccine for their work if they have a chronic health condition or based on their risk for ongoing exposure. The vaccine can also be given in a combined vaccine such as with the hepatitis B vaccine.

See your health care provider to discuss your recommendation to get this vaccine.

If someone has close contact and is exposed to someone contagious with hepatitis A, the vaccine is recommended for post-exposure protection. It is given to anyone six months of age and older within 14 days of their exposure. It is estimated to be 80% effective in preventing an infection if given in time. It may be recommended for household and sexual contacts, contacts in group childcare centers and kindergartens, including staff and attendees, and co-workers and clients of infected food handlers.

Infants less than six months old receive immunoglobulin only.

People who are at higher risk for getting very sick if they were exposed should receive the vaccine and immunoglobulin for post-exposure protection within 14 days after exposure, including:

  • adults 50 years and older
  • Persons who are immunocompromised
  • Persons who have chronic liver disease

For long-term protection, see your doctor to get the second dose of the hepatitis A vaccine, which is not provided by Toronto Public Health.

You do not need to get the vaccine if you have had hepatitis A infection before or already received two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine. People who grew up in areas where hepatitis A is common may already be immune.

You should not get the vaccine if you had a severe reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine in the past, are allergic to any ingredients used in the vaccine, or are less than six months of age.

The hepatitis A vaccines are inactivated vaccines. They do not contain live virus and cannot cause hepatitis A infection. The vaccines contain neomycin, an antibiotic, and aluminum, to boost the immune system. Latex is in the vial stopper for VAQTA® and VAQTA® Pediatric/Adolescent vaccines. The other hepatitis A vaccines do not contain latex and are safe with latex allergies.

The vaccine is generally well tolerated. The most common side effects include soreness, redness, and swelling where the needle was given, and they usually resolve in a few days. Less common side effects may include headache, irritability, malaise, mild fever, fatigue, weakness, muscle or joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is very rare but can occur. If you have symptoms such as hives, wheezy breathing, or swelling around the mouth or throat, seek immediate medical care. It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your healthcare provider or Toronto Public Health at 416-392-1250.

The vaccine is publicly funded under certain circumstances and based on certain health conditions. Speak with your health care provider.

  • Talk to your health care provider or Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600
  • Call 811 to connect to a registered nurse day or night for free, secure, and confidential health advice.