Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are two members of a family of closely related diseases -- the others being hepatitis C, D, and E -- that are caused by a viral infection.
Although each of those viruses is different, the diseases are similar. Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver, 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 hepatitis 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 children get the first dose of this vaccine between ages 12-23 months. They'll need a booster shot 6 to 18 months after the first shot.
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 this 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.)
- Anyone travelling to or working in countries where hepatitis A is more common
- Members of a household that will be welcoming a newly adopted child from a country that has a high risk of hepatitis A
Other people may benefit from the vaccine as well. Ask your doctor.
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.