Hepatitis A vaccination 

There are three main types of Hepatitis A vaccination, which are all highly effective.

Who should be vaccinated

Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended if you:

  • are 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
  • have any type of long-term (chronic) liver disease
  • have haemophilia (a blood disorder than can affect the ability of blood to clot properly)
  • are a man who has sex with other men
  • regularly inject illegal drugs 
  • work with or near sewage (untreated sewage is often contaminated by hepatitis A)
  • work in institutions where levels of personal hygiene may be poor, such as a homeless shelter
  • work with primates (monkeys, apes, baboons, chimps, gorillas) as these can also be infected with hepatitis A

If you are unsure whether you should be vaccinated against hepatitis A, check with your GP.

Vaccination is not considered necessary if you are travelling to northern or western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand or Japan.

Types of vaccine

The three types of vaccine that protect against hepatitis A infection are:

  • monovalent vaccine, which provides protection against hepatitis A 
  • combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine – hepatitis B is another type of liver infection most common in China, Africa and southeast Asia
  • combined hepatitis A and typhoid fever vaccine – typhoid fever is a serious type of bacterial infection

If you need vaccination because you are travelling, a single injection of the vaccine should be given two weeks before you leave, although it can be given up to the day of your departure if necessary.

This will protect you against hepatitis A for about a year. A booster dose, given six to 12 months after the first dose, will protect you for at least 20 years.

The type of vaccine that is best for you will depend on your individual circumstances. For example, combined vaccines may be recommended if you are planning to travel to parts of the world that also have high levels of hepatitis B and typhoid fever. The combined vaccines will need to be given four to six weeks before you travel.

Your GP can give you a vaccination for hepatitis A on the NHS. Travel health clinics can also give this vaccination, but there may be a charge.

The hepatitis A vaccine cannot be given to babies under the age of one.

Side effects

After having the hepatitis A vaccine, some people develop temporary soreness, redness and hardening of the skin at the injection site. A small, painless lump may also form at the injection site. This usually disappears quickly and is not a cause for concern.

Much less common side effects include:

  • tiredness
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • a slightly raised temperature – a normal temperature is 36-36.8ºC (96.8-98.24ºF)

Where further advice is required

Speak to your GP before having any vaccinations if:

  • you are pregnant
  • you are breastfeeding
  • you have an immune deficiency
  • you have any allergies

Page last reviewed: 17/06/2014

Next review due: 17/06/2016