This vaccine gives protection against the Hepatitis A virus, which is a cause of liver infection.
The risk of infection from hepatitis A is low for most people in the UK, so the vaccine is only available free of charge to people at high risk of hepatitis A disease. This includes:
In Europe and the UK there is currently an increase in the number of cases of hepatitis A, mainly among men who have sex with men. Some parts of the UK have more cases than others. Public Health England is encouraging gay and bisexual men to practice good personal hygiene and ask about hepatitis A vaccination at their sexual health clinic appointments.
There are three types of hepatitis A vaccine available in the UK:
Vaccines are available for adults and for children aged 1 year or older. However, combined hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines are not licensed for children under the age of 15. For some vaccines only one initial dose is needed, and for others two or three doses are needed. Booster doses may also be needed for long-term protection.
All types of hepatitis A vaccines used in the UK are inactivated. They do not contain any live viruses or bacteria, and cannot cause disease.
All the hepatitis A vaccines used in the UK contain a small amount of aluminium, which strengthens and lengthens the immune response to the vaccine. See more information on aluminium in vaccines.
The hepatitis A virus strain used to make the vaccines is grown in the laboratory using human cell-lines. See more information on human cell-lines.
Several hepatitis A vaccines may contain traces of neomycin, an antibiotic used in the production process. See more information on antibiotics in vaccines.
The combined hepatitis A and B vaccines may contain traces of yeast proteins. These come from the yeast used to grow the HepB proteins for the vaccine. A tiny quantity of yeast protein may remain in the vaccine, but there is no evidence that this can cause allergic reactions. The HepB proteins are grown in yeast cells using recombinant DNA technology.
In addition, hepatitis A vaccines often contain:
None of the hepatitis A vaccines used in the UK contains the preservative thiomersal (mercury).
For full information on ingredients, ask for the Patient Information Leaflet for the vaccine you are offered.
Side effects vary between the different vaccines, but can include the following:
Very common (may affect more than 1 in 10 people):
Common (affecting up to 1 in 10 people):
Less common (affecting up to 1 in 100 people):
For rarer side effects (affecting fewer than 1 in 1000 people), ask to see the Patient Information Leaflet for the vaccine you are offered.
As with any vaccine, medicine or food, there is a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is different from less severe allergic reactions because it causes life-threatening breathing and/or circulation problems. It is always serious but can be treated with adrenaline. In the UK between 1997 and 2003 there were a total of 130 reports of anaphylaxis following ALL immunisations, but all of these people survived. Around 117 million doses of vaccines were given in the UK during this period, making the overall rate around 1 in 900,000. Depending on the cause of the reaction, and following expert guidance, the person may be able to have vaccinations in the future.
Reactions listed under ‘possible side effects’ or ‘adverse events’ on vaccine product information sheets may not all be directly linked to the vaccine. See Vaccine side effects and adverse reactions for more information on why this is the case.
See more information on the monitoring of vaccine safety.