Updated May 2016

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

Hepatitis A Infection

Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver. The infection can take several weeks to appear; average 28 days. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, stomach pain and yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice). Some people, especially young children, may not show symptoms.

Symptoms are usually mild, and the illness usually lasts one to two weeks. Although severe cases can last several months. The severity of the illness increases with age; it is also increased in persons with pre-existing chronic liver disease. Once you have had Hepatitis A infection you cannot get it again.

Hepatitis A virus is transmitted by drinking or eating food contaminated with the stool of a person with Hepatitis A (also known as the “fecal-oral” route). The virus can also be spread through direct contact with infected person, such as household contacts; handling diapers in childcare settings, or through sexual activities.

Hepatitis A Vaccine Benefits

The vaccines is 90% to 97% effectiveness in preventing infection after completing the two-dose series.

Recommendations for Use

The vaccine is recommended for high-risk individuals:

  • illicit drug use
  • chronic liver disease (including hepatitis B and C)
  • men who have sex with men
  • travellers to hepatitis A endemic areas
  • household or close contacts of persons with acute hepatitis A infection
  • household or close contacts of children adopted from endemic areas
  • military personnel and humanitarian relief workers likely to be posted to endemic areas
  • zoo-keepers, veterinarians and researchers who handle non-human primates

Cost

The vaccine is not publicly funded, but may be free for individuals at greater risk of infection. Speak with your healthcare provider.

Vaccine Side Effects and Risks

The vaccine is generally well tolerated. Common side effects include pain and redness where the needle was given; usually, resolves 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.

Very rarely is a risk for severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). If you have symptoms such as hives, wheezy breathing, swelling around the mouth or throat, seek immediate medical care.  It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider or to Toronto Public Health at 416-392-1250.

People Who Should Not Get the Vaccine

You should not get the vaccine if you have:

  • had hepatitis A infection before
  • received 2 doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine
  • had a severe reaction to the Hepatitis A vaccine in the past
  • allergic to any ingredients used in the vaccine
  • is less than 12 months of age

Post Exposure Protection

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for susceptible contacts who are one-year of age and older and within 14 days of exposure. When the vaccine is given within a week of exposure, it is estimated to be 79% effective. Vaccine efficacy may be reduced in persons who are immunocompromised or have chronic liver disease.

The following contacts should receive both hepatitis A vaccine and immune globulin:

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

One dose of the vaccine provides protection, within 2 weeks of immunization, for at least one year. For long-term protection, a booster dose should be given 6 to 36 months later. See your doctor to get the second dose, which is not provided by Toronto Public Health.

For More Information

  • Talk to your health care provider
  • Call Toronto Public Health’s Immunization Information Line at 416-392-1250