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Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are two members of a family of closely related diseases -- the others being hep C, D, and E -- that are caused by a viral infection.

Although each of those viruses is different, the diseases are similar. Hepatitis is marked by liver inflammation, and it can be serious or even life-threatening.

Although there are no vaccines for hepatitis C, D, or E, there are safe and effective vaccines that can prevent hep A and B. There is also a combination vaccine that guards against both diseases.

Who Should Get the Hepatitis A Vaccine?

The CDC recommends that all children between ages 12 months and 23 months be vaccinated with it.

The following people are also considered at risk for the disease and should be vaccinated:

  • Children and teens through age 18 who live in states or communities that have implemented routine vaccination because of a high rate of disease
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Anyone who uses street drugs
  • People with long-term liver disease
  • Anyone treated with blood clotting drugs, such as people with hemophilia
  • Anyone who works with HAV-infected primates or in HAV research laboratories. (HAV is like HIV in animals.)

You should not get the vaccine if you're allergic to any ingredients in it or if you had a severe allergic reaction to an earlier dose of it. Tell your doctor about any allergies you have.

If you're pregnant, let your doctor know. The safety of this vaccine for pregnant women is unknown, although the risk is considered to be very low.

Who Should Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

The CDC recommends it for all babies, who should get their first dose as newborns.  

Other people who need it include:

  • Children and teens younger than age 19 who haven't been vaccinated
  • Anyone who has a sex partner with hepatitis B
  • People who are sexually active but aren’t in a long-term relationship in which both partners are monogamous
  • Anyone being evaluated or treated for an STD
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who share needles used to inject drugs
  • Anyone who lives with someone who has hep B
  • Anyone whose job routinely puts them at risk for coming in contact with blood or blood-contaminated body fluids
  • People with end-stage kidney (renal) disease
  • People who live and work in facilities for people who are developmentally disabled
  • Travelers to regions with moderate to high rates of hepatitis B
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with HIV infections

You should not get the vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction to an earlier dose or are allergic to yeast, because yeast is used to make the vaccine.