What is the hepatitis A vaccine?
The term hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Human Epatitis A virus (HAV). This virus is transmitted generally by ingestion of contaminated water or food. Therefore, poor hygiene favors the spread. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Although hepatitis A is usually the mildest and least serious of the three existing hepatitis viruses, it is highly contagious and can be dangerous for people with pre-existing liver problems. Hepatitis A is present throughout the world and is most commonly seen in Africa, Central America, South America, the Middle East and Asia.
Although any individual can contract hepatitis A, common risk factors include the following:
- Person to person contact (poor hygiene, sexual intercourse with an infected individual, living with a individual who has hepatitis A)
- Contaminated food or water (poor sanitary conditions)
- Contaminated needles or blood
- Illegal drugs, whether injected or not
- Clotting-factor disorders (hemophilia)
- Travelling to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Being HIV positive
Hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to fend off the disease and prevent further complications from arising. Once a person has recovered from hepatitis A, he or she is immune to reinfection with hepatitis A for life. This is due to the fact that the body’s immune system produces antibodies against the hepatitis A virus. The antibodies are proteins that fight off and kill the virus and prevent Hepatitis A infection.
What is the hepatitis A vaccine composed of?
The hepatitis A vaccine is made from an inactivated virus and is administered intramuscularly .
There is also a vaccine that combines Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, transmitted in individuals who are susceptible to both viruses.
When is it recommended to receive the hepatitis A vaccine?
The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children at age 1 year. It is administered in two doses at an interval of six months in order to provide prolonged protection. The vaccine is also recommended for individuals who plan to travel to countries at high risk of hepatitis A as well as for individuals with chronic liver disease. Drug interactions include: individuals with a weakened immune system, individuals receiving medical treatment for cancer, certain medications, pregnancy, and nursing mothers.
What are the side effects of the hepatitis A vaccine?
The hepatitis A vaccine is very safe. Following administration, only a slight pain may be felt at the injection site. Mild symptoms that may occur include the following:
- Soreness at the injection site
- Loss of appetite
Like all vaccines, there is the possibility of serious problems occurring, such as severe allergic reactions. Through rare, there are such cases that may present themselves and cause symptoms in individuals such as hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat and rapid heartbeat.
These problems may occur within minutes or a few hours after the vaccination, depending on the individual’s immune system. They tend to last 1 to 2 days.