Hepatitis A

Find out about the hepatitis A vaccine, including who should have it, which types are available and what the possible side effects are.

Vaccination against hepatitis A isn't routinely offered in the UK because the risk of infection is low for most people. It's only recommended for people at high risk.

Who should have the hepatitis A vaccine

People usually advised to have the hepatitis A vaccine include:

  • close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
  • people planning to travel to or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is widespread, particularly if levels of sanitation and food hygiene are expected to be poor
  • people with any type of long-term (chronic) liver disease
  • men who have sex with other men
  • people who inject illegal drugs
  • people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job – this includes sewage workers, staff of institutions where levels of personal hygiene may be poor (such as a homeless shelter) and people working with monkeys, apes and gorillas

Contact your GP surgery if you think you should have the hepatitis A vaccine or you're not sure whether you need it.

Types of hepatitis A vaccine

There are three main types of hepatitis A vaccination:

  • a vaccine for hepatitis A only
  • a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B
  • a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and typhoid fever

Talk to your GP about which vaccine is most suitable for you. All three types are usually available for free on the NHS.

If you've travelling abroad, try to plan your vaccinations in advance. They should ideally be started at least two or three weeks before you leave, although some can be given up to the day of your departure if necessary.

Extra doses of the vaccine are often recommended after 6-12 months if you need long-term protection.

You can find more information about the various hepatitis A vaccines on the NHS Fit for Travel website.

Side effects of the hepatitis A vaccine

Some people develop temporary soreness, redness and hardening of the skin at the injection site after having the hepatitis A vaccine.

A small, painless lump may also form, but this usually disappears quickly and isn't a cause for concern.

Less common side effects include:

  • a slightly raised temperature
  • feeling unwell
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • feeling sick
  • loss of appetite
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