Your Child's Immunizations: Hepatitis A Vaccine (HepA)
What Is Hepatitis A?
The hepatitis A virus (HAV) causes fever, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice, and can lead to community-wide epidemics. Childcare centers are a common site of outbreaks.
HepA Immunization Schedule
The vaccine is recommended for children 12–23 months old, followed by a second dose 6–18 months later.
HepA can be given as early as 6 months of age if a baby will travel to a place where hepatitis A is common (the baby will still need routine vaccination after the first birthday). It's also recommended for older kids and adults who are at high risk for the disease. This includes:
- people who live in, travel to, or adopt children from locations with high rates of hepatitis A
- people with clotting disorders
- people with chronic liver disease
- homeless people
- drug users
It also can be given to anyone who wants immunity to the disease.
HepA also is useful for staff of childcare facilities or schools where they may be at risk of exposure. If you plan to travel, talk to your doctor in advance so you and your family have time to get any needed immunizations.
Why Is HepA Recommended?
Besides protecting the individual child, vaccination against the hepatitis A virus can help prevent epidemics. Some infected kids do not have any symptoms, but can still spread the virus to others. Having many young kids vaccinated against hepatitis A can limit the spread of the disease in a community.
Possible Risks of the HepA Vaccine
Side effects are usually mild fever; and tenderness, swelling, and redness at the site of the injection. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare.
When to Delay or Avoid HAV Immunization
The HepA vaccine is not recommended if your child:
- is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
- had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine or has a latex allergy
Caring for Your Child After HAV Immunization
Your child may have fever, soreness, and some swelling and redness in the area where the shot was given. For pain and fever, check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and to find out the appropriate dose.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
- Call if you aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
- Call if there are problems after the immunization.