Updated May 2016
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; 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.
The vaccines is 90 per cent to 97 per cent effectiveness in preventing infection after completing the two-dose series.
The vaccine is recommended for high-risk individuals:
The vaccine is not publicly funded, but may be free for individuals at greater risk of infection. Speak with your healthcare provider.
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.
You should not get the vaccine if you have:
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 per cent 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:
One dose of the vaccine provides protection, within two weeks of immunization, for at least one year. For long-term protection, a booster dose should be given six to 36 months later. See your doctor to get the second dose, which is not provided by Toronto Public Health.