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The Hepatitis A Vaccine

What You Need to Know

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the stool of persons with hepatitis A. It is usually spread by close personal contact and sometimes by eating food or drinking water containing HAV.

Hepatitis A can cause:

  • mild “flu-like” illness
  • jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  • severe stomach pains and diarrhea

People with hepatitis A often have to be hospitalized (up to about 1 person in 5).

Sometimes, people die as a result of hepatitis A (about 3-5 deaths per 1,000 cases).

A person who has hepatitis A can easily pass the disease to others within the same household.

Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent hepatitis A.

Who Should Get the Hepatitis A Vaccine and When?


Some people should be routinely vaccinated with hepatitis A vaccine:

  • All children 1 year (12 through 23 months) of age.
  • Persons 1 year of age and older traveling to or working in countries with high or intermediate prevalence of hepatitis A, such as those located in Central or South America, Mexico, Asia (except Japan), Africa, and eastern Europe. For more information see
  • Children and adolescents through 18 years of age who live in states or communities where routine vaccination has been implemented because of high disease incidence.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Persons who use street drugs.
  • Persons with chronic liver disease.
  • Persons who are treated with clotting factor concentrates.
  • Persons who work with HAV-infected primates or who work with HAV in research laboratories.

Other people might get hepatitis A vaccine in special situations:

  • Hepatitis A vaccine might be recommended for children or adolescents in communities where outbreaks of hepatitis A are occurring.
Hepatitis A vaccine is not licensed for children younger than 1 year of age.


For children, the first dose should be given at 12-23 months of age. Children who are not vaccinated by 2 years of age can be vaccinated at later visits.

For travelers, the vaccine series should be started at least one month before traveling to provide the best protection.

Persons who get the vaccine less than one month before traveling can also get a shot called immune globulin (IG). IG gives immediate, temporary protection.

For others, the hepatitis A vaccine series may be started whenever a person is at risk of infection.

Two doses of the vaccine are needed for lasting protection. These doses should be given at least 6 months apart.

Hepatitis A vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

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