Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be deadly. There are five main hepatitis viruses, known as A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis is most often caused by the A and B viruses.
Hepatitis A is commonly spread through infected food or water. It is more common in countries without safe water or sewage systems. Hepatitis B is spread through sexual contact or contact with blood. It can also be passed from mother to child.
Vaccines can prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B. There is also a combination vaccine that protects against both viruses.
What is a hepatitis A and B vaccine?
Hepatitis A and B vaccines introduce killed virus particles. This causes your body to fight off live hepatitis A and B viruses in the future.
Who should get a hepatitis A and B vaccine?
Infants typically receive doses of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and at 6 months. Hepatitis A vaccines are recommended for children 12 months and older who are at risk for infection.
A hepatitis A and B combination vaccine is also recommended for anyone 18 or older who:
- Travels to an area where hepatitis is common
- Is military personnel
- Engages in high-risk sexual behavior
- Uses injection drugs
- Has hemophilia
- Has chronic liver disease
- Lives or works in an area with increased exposure to blood or bodily fluids
A hepatitis vaccine is not recommended for anyone who:
- Has a serious allergy to an ingredient in the vaccine
- Has had a serious reaction to a dose of the vaccine in the past
- Has a weakened immune system
- Is pregnant
Consult a healthcare provider for specific recommendations.
What are the side effects of the hepatitis A and B vaccine?
Possible side effects from hepatitis A and B vaccines are typically mild. They can include soreness at the site of the shot, headache, fever or tiredness.
Any vaccine carries a very small risk of severe allergic reaction. Go to the ER if you experience difficulty breathing, dizziness or swelling in the face.