What is Hepatitis A vaccination?
Hepatitis A vaccination is an injected form of the live virus known as HAV or Hepatitis A. Typically only given in the live form in India and China, the rest of the world is given an inactivated strain. Either way, the vaccination is given in order to stimulate the production of antibodies in the patient, thereby protecting them from infection by HAV.
The HAV vaccination is highly effective and given in two doses in persons at a higher risk, either due to their own health condition or the location they are traveling to. Patients with compromised immune systems will be candidates for a double dose of HAV vaccination; healthy adults are typically protected with only a single dose.
How does Hepatitis A vaccination work?
Most vaccinations, including the Hepatitis A vaccination, work the same way; they train your immune system to fight against a certain disease by safely exposing you to the disease without symptoms. Immune cells known as lymphocytes produce antibodies, which fight off these invading viruses or, in this case, antigens of the virus, and protect the body against infection by exposure to the real thing in the future.
Even though the body's immune system is very efficient, producing millions of antibodies each and every day, sometimes it is insufficient in fighting off a fast moving invasion of a virus. That's where the Hepatitis A vaccination comes in, to prepare the body ahead of time without causing symptoms.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A or HAV is a serious liver disease that can be life-threatening. Caused by a certain virus strain spread through water or food that has been infected, it may also be spread by human contact in persons living in the same home. Some people who have HAV do not have any symptoms, but they can still spread the virus.
Though less common in the US and other countries that have a high grade of sanitation and clean water along with sewage systems that are effective and safe, HAV is still a concern in many countries and regions of the world. Children and adults who are one year of age and older should be vaccinated against HAV if they will be traveling to:
Children and adults who will be living for an extended period of time in these areas or those who are at a high risk of contracting HAV due to compromised immune systems should also be vaccinated against the virus. This would include:
This vaccination will introduce the HAV virus into your system; in doing so, it may cause some effects on your health that are unwanted and possibly dangerous. If you experience any of the following symptoms, get in touch with your physician right away:
Other side effects, while bothersome, will disappear over time as the vaccination works its way through the body. If you do experience any of the following symptoms, check with your medical advisor, who may be able to assist you with ways to ease them or eliminate them completely:
Other side effects than those listed here may also be experienced by some patients. Report any changes to your overall health to your physician right away.
Your HAV vaccination will be given to you via an injection into one of your muscles by a trained healthcare professional such as a doctor or nurse. It is recommended that you have your main vaccination at least two weeks prior to your possible exposure to HAV.
Hepatitis A vaccination is given in two doses; a main dose and a booster dose that takes place between six to 18 months after the main dose, depending on the brand.
The brand known as Havrix is given in one milliliter adult doses and half milliliter pediatric doses and arrives to the hospital or clinic in single dose, pre-filled syringes.
Hypersensitive reactions to other vaccinations that you have experienced in the past should be made known to your physician prior to receiving your Hepatitis A Vaccination. Additionally, if you experience hypersensitivity to any animals, foods, perfumes, dyes or preservatives, let your doctor know of these as well.
No scientific data has been provided that would limit the effective use of Hepatitis A Vaccine in pediatric patients, but safety for infants under one year old has not been proven. Use of this vaccination in very young children is at the discretion and dosing advice of the physician.
Geriatric specific problems have not come to light with any scientific studies that have been performed on patients receiving Hepatitis A Vaccine. Use and safety in this age group are the same as those for an adult patient.
There have been no research studies with regard to use of the Hepatitis A Vaccine in women who are pregnant; therefore it is unknown whether this vaccination poses a risk to fetal development. Only women who are in clear need of this vaccination should receive it when pregnant.
Women who are breastfeeding have not been studied to form any data on the safety to their infants while having an injection of Hepatitis A Vaccine. Use in this group should be under caution.
Read all information given to you and address any questions to your doctor or pharmacist if anything isn't clear.
Avoid taking other medications after you have been given a vaccination against Hepatitis A or at least disclose your prescription requirements to your physician to insure that no dangerous interactions are possible. Include any non-prescription, herbal, vitamin or holistic supplements that you take as well.
Some foods, alcoholic beverages or tobacco products could interrupt the effectiveness of the Hepatitis A vaccination or even cause unwanted effects on your health. Discuss the interaction of any foods, alcohol or tobacco products with your physician prior to receiving this vaccination.
Drug treatments that have an effect on your immune system should be avoided before and after having the Hepatitis A Vaccine. Inform your doctor if you have had any of the following treatments recently:
The following medical conditions may have an effect on the usefulness of the Hepatitis A vaccination or may worsen if you have the vaccine. Make sure your doctor is aware of your medical status, especially if you have been diagnosed with:
It is imperative that, after receiving the primary vaccination of Hepatitis A Vaccine, that you return to your physician for your booster dose when scheduled. If, after the first dose of this vaccination, you have any health symptoms that are of a concern, be sure to communicate these to your doctor.
An increased risk for anaphylaxis (a life threatening hypersensitivity to this vaccination) is present with the Hepatitis A vaccination. If you experience a skin rash, swollen throat or tongue, itching or difficulty breathing after your vaccination, alert your medical professional immediately.
If you have a hypersensitivity to latex, let your doctor know of this prior to receiving the Hepatitis A Vaccine, as portions of the syringe that arrives pre-filled with the vaccination contain latex.
Patients who already have an HAV infection will not be protected by this vaccination. Let your physician know if you already have this virus.
The Hepatitis A Vaccine is used only by licensed medical professionals in the appropriate setting, which is a hospital or clinic. Use and storage safety are under the advice of the manufacturer and carried out by the professional medical staff.
Hepatitis A vaccinations should be refrigerated but protected from freezing and never shaken. The vial should remain in the original carton, which will protect it from light. Expired or unused vaccinations should be disposed of safely according to the manufacturer's instruction and local guidelines.
In order to train the body's defense system, injected vaccinations such as the Hepatitis A Vaccine are necessary prior to exposure of the virus. Because the onset of the virus may not allow for time for the body to react, a vaccination with an inactive form of the virus can be a safe, effective way of protecting people who are at a high risk for contracting this virus. This includes traveling to or living in certain countries, certain ethnic groups or social groups, engaging in high-risk sexual activity and use of illegal injected drugs.
Hepatitis A Vaccine is given intramuscularly by a trained healthcare professional in a hospital or clinic at least two weeks before the patient is to be exposed to HAV. Given in two doses consisting of a main dose followed by a booster dose in two weeks time, The Hepatitis A Vaccine is typically safe and effective for most patients.
Adverse effects on health may occur that involve pain or infection at the site of the injection, elevated body temperature, uncomfortable or ill feelings including symptoms resembling the flu, stomach issues, skin symptoms or changes in mood, demeanor or senses such as taste and sight. Any health changes you experience after a vaccination with Hepatitis A Vaccine should be reported to your physician right away.
Patients who are at least one year old should be at a low risk for any adverse effects from a vaccination for Hepatitis A. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid this vaccination unless it is needed urgently. Patients who are hypersensitive to neomycin or any other vaccinations or those who have blood diseases, liver diseases or have weak immune systems should not be vaccinated with the Hepatitis A Vaccine. Do not receive this vaccine if you are extremely ill and have an elevated body temperature or if you have been exposed and may already have HAV.