Hepatitis A vaccine

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease which is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).

The virus is spread from person to person and it occurs when an individual comes in contact with the feces (stool) of infected people. A person would contract the infection when he or she doesn’t maintain proper hygiene like washing hands regularly.¹ The infection can even spread through water, food or objects contaminated with HAV. Since there is a high probability of water contamination during monsoon, an increase in the incidence of Hepatitis A is also observed.¹

A child will get the disease when he or she happens to eat food or drink water contaminated with the virus. He or she may acquire the infection if they happen to come in close contact with another infected child.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis A?

A person infected with hepatitis A will experience some of the following symptoms:

The severity can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.² Some people may not have any symptoms. This is particularly observed in children. In children under 6 years of age, if HAV infection occurs, it usually produces mild symptoms and may cause jaundice only in about 10%. If adults are infected with the Hepatitis A virus, however, the symptoms can be more severe, with jaundice occurring in about 70% patients and the disease can even have a fatal outcome.²

A person once recovered from a hepatitis A infection, can no longer spread the disease to others. Very rarely, a person can become a chronic carrier of hepatitis A.

Why should the child be vaccinated?

In day care centres, the caregivers may not wash their hands after changing the diaper of an infected child or from one child to another. It may then cause the non-infected baby to get the infection.5 Also, most of the times young babies do not wash their hands or have their hands washed for them. In such a setting, it becomes very important that the child is already protected from the disease and vaccination would help achieve it!

Moreover, if one is not vaccinated in childhood and the disease does occur at a later age, the severity can be higher. Hence, the World Health Organisation recommends that Hepatitis A vaccination should be a part of your child’s immunization plan to ensure long term protection from the infection. Since these vaccines are cost effective and relatively painless, every parent must ensure their child’s safety with Hepatitis A vaccine.

Can adults get the HAV vaccine?

This vaccination can be taken at any age (except below the age of 1); hence even adults, who weren’t vaccinated in their childhood, can protect themselves from acquiring this infection by getting vaccinated now.

What is the Hepatitis A V vaccine (HAV)?

Hepatitis A vaccine provides protection against Hepatitis A. The vaccine is given in form of an injection into the muscle of the upper arm.

Who should get the vaccine?

Generally, people who are recommended to get HAV, include:

  • Children in day care centres, who may come in close contact with other infected children
  • People who are suffering from chronic liver disease, HIV or people with a weakened immune system
  • People who come in close contact with those already infected with hepatitis A
  • People planning to travel or reside in those areas of the world where hepatitis A is widespread, especially in the regions with poor hygiene and poor sanitation
  • People with multiple sexual partners
  • Men who keep sexual relations with other men³
  • People who take drugs in the form of injections
  • People who suffer from blood disorders or receive repeated blood transfusions
  • People who happen to consume the food prepared by a person with hepatitis A infection

What is the schedule for vaccination??

The schedule for vaccination is as follows:

  • For adults, 2 separate shots of the vaccine should be administered 6 months apart

It has been observed that Hepatitis A vaccine does not interfere with any other vaccine and hence can be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Are there any side effects?

With any medicine, there are side effects. Even vaccines have some side effects. Usually, these are mild and disappear on their own.

The possible side effects for HAV may include:

  • Redness or soreness where the shot is given
  • Low grade fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness

Some rare side effects include:

  • Fainting after the shot is given
  • Shoulder pain
  • Severe allergic reaction

Is the vaccine painful?

These days advanced forms of vaccination are available which are given as a single subcutaneous prick instead of the 2 dose traditional intramuscular injection which used to be quite painful for kids.

What if a dose is missed?

If your child misses out on the second shot of HAV, the second dose should be given as early as possible. There is no need to repeat the first dose.

 

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 References:

1 Am Fam Physician. 2012 Dec 1;86(11):1027-34; quiz 1010-2.

2 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/

3 Euro Surveill. 2017 Feb 2;22(5)

4 Virus Genes. 2017 Feb;53(1):15-20.

5 J Clin Virol. 2015 Dec;73:27-31.

6 Vaccine. 2015 Jun 22;33(28):3200-7

7 Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2017 Jan 2;13(1):213-215

8 Clin Microbiol Infect. 2016 Sep;22(9):811.e9-811.e15

9 J Travel Med. 2016 Feb 15;23(2):tav023

10 Vaccine. 2003 Jul 4;21(23):3208-11.

11  Vaccine. 2001 Mar 21;19(17-19):2407-12.