Hepatitis A Vaccine

Key vaccine facts

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:

  • people planning to visit or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is common
  • close contacts of someone who has hepatitis A
  • people with chronic (long-term) liver disease
  • people with blood clotting disorders (haemophilia)
  • men who have sex with men
  • drug users who inject drugs
  • people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job (including staff working in jobs where people’s personal hygiene may be poor, or people working with monkeys and apes)

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. Most of the UK cases so far have been in London. 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:

  • a vaccine that protects just against hepatitis A
  • a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B
  • a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and typhoid

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. For more information, ask for the Patient Information Leaflet for the vaccine you are offered.

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.

Ingredients

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 to stop bacteria growing and contaminating the vaccine. 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 hepatitis B 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 hepatitis B proteins are grown in yeast cells using recombinant DNA technology.

In addition, hepatitis A vaccines often contain:

  • common salt (sodium chloride) and other harmless sodium and potassium salts used as acidity regulators
  • a trace of formaldehyde, used to inactivate the viruses for the vaccine

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

Side effects vary between the different types of vaccine, but can include the following:

Very common (may affect more than 1 in 10 people):

  • pain at the injection site
  • redness and hardness at the injection site
  • headache
  • feeling tired, irritable, weak or generally unwell
  • loss of appetite or feeling sick
  • upset stomach or diarrhoea

Common (affecting up to 1 in 10 people):

  • a slightly raised temperature (fever)
  • swelling or a small lump at the injection site
  • itchy skin
  • aching muscles
  • feeling drowsy

Less common (affecting up to 1 in 100 people):

  • feeling dizzy
  • stomach pain or being sick

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.

Page last updated: 
Friday, August 25, 2017

Diseases

Hepatitis A

The Hepatitis A virus can cause liver infection. It is spread by food and water contaminated... Read more