Hepatitis Vaccine: What You Need to Know

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Hepatitis is an inflammatory liver condition. There are five types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. Most cases are caused by a hepatitis virus. The condition can also be a result of excessive alcohol or drug use or a faulty inflammatory immune response that occurs when the immune system mistakes the liver as a threat to the body and begins to attack it.

There are two hepatitis vaccines that can help prevent hepatitis A and B infections. A third vaccine, developed for hepatitis E, is only permitted for use in China. This article discusses the types of hepatitis that can be prevented with a vaccine and what you need to know before getting one.

Cropped image of nurse injecting Covid-19 Vaccine to a patient. Female healthcare worker is working at hospital. She is holding syringe.

Morsa Images / Getty Images

Types

Hepatitis A and B vaccines are widely available. Brand names for the hepatitis A vaccine include Havrix and Vaqta, while hepatitis B vaccines include Pediarix, Vaxelis, Engerix-B, Heplisav-B, and Recombivax HB. There is also a combination vaccine that can protect against both hepatitis A and B called Twinrix.

Both vaccines contain dead hepatitis viruses that provoke an immune response. This drives the production of antibodies by the immune system, which are special proteins that attach to and disable a specific virus. When there are enough hepatitis-specific antibodies, the body is protected against the infection.

Although the hepatitis E vaccine is being used in China, it has not been approved in other countries because of a lack of research regarding its safety for some groups, such as pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and those with underlying liver disease.

Recap

There are eight vaccines available for hepatitis A and B. These vaccines force the body to produce hepatitis-specific antibodies to protect against a possible infection in the future.

Uses

While all children can and should get the hepatitis A and B vaccines, the hepatitis A vaccine can be given to children 12 months or older while the hepatitis B vaccine can be given to newborn infants. People who didn't get vaccinated as children and are victims of sexual assault or abuse should also consider getting the hepatitis B vaccine.

Even if someone does not fall into any of these categories, they can still choose to get vaccinated against both hepatitis A and B.

The main use of the hepatitis A and B vaccine is protection against viral infection. People who should get the hepatitis A and B vaccine include:

  • People with chronic liver disease or a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
  • People who travel to countries with intermediate or high endemic rates of hepatitis A or B
  • Illicit drug users
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Those with occupational risk for infection, such as healthcare and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job
  • People who use injection drugs

Additionally, people who anticipate close contact with an international adoptee and those experiencing homelessness should get the hepatitis A vaccine.

People who have a sexual relationship with someone with the hepatitis virus, have more than one sexual partner, or are living with someone with the virus should get the hepatitis B vaccine. People with a hepatitis C infection and those who are in jail or prison should do so as well.

Recap

Anyone who wants to be protected against hepatitis A or B can get the vaccine. However, some individuals at a higher risk of contracting the virus or having severe complications due to the infection are highly recommended to get it.

Before Use

The hepatitis A and B vaccines should not be given to anyone who has an allergy to the ingredients of the vaccine or people who had a severe allergic reaction to their previous dose.

People with a severe allergy to latex should also avoid getting a vaccine that is administered using prefilled syringes as they are made with natural latex. Single-use vials using a separate needle and syringe can be used in these cases.

Recap

Prior to getting a hepatitis vaccine, you should be sure that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients or tools used to administer it.

Dosage

Hepatitis A vaccines will be given in two doses, whereas hepatitis B can be given in two to four doses. The doses for both vaccines range from 0.5 mL to 1.0 mL.

Side Effects

Common side effects that can occur with hepatitis A and B vaccines include pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site. A fever and headache may also occur.

Hepatitis A Vaccine Side Effects
  • General feeling of illness

  • Nausea

  • Loss of appetite

Hepatitis B Vaccine Side Effects
  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability or agitation in children

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Nausea

Warnings

People who are undergoing therapy that requires the use of immunosuppressive medications should speak to their doctor before getting the hepatitis A or B vaccine. This is because immunosuppressants hinder the natural immune response in the body, which can lead to the vaccine being unable to produce enough of the antibodies designed to protect you from hepatitis.

Recap

There are very few warnings when it comes to the adverse effects of the hepatitis A or B vaccine. The vaccine may not reach overall effectiveness for people who are taking immunosuppressants, so they should always speak to their doctor before getting the vaccine.

Summary

The hepatitis vaccine is a safe and effective tool to help protect you against two forms of viral hepatitis: A and B. Typically, the vaccines are given to children or infants in a two- or three-dose course so that they are protected from a young age. Adults without the vaccines can get them if they wish and are highly encouraged to do so if they are in a high-risk group.

A Word From Verywell

Hepatitis infections range from mild to severe, with some being life-long chronic illnesses. Since the prevention of both hepatitis A and B is possible with a vaccine, those who can get vaccinated should do so with the approval of their healthcare provider.

No one wants to put their health at risk, so there is no reason to forgo getting vaccinated for both hepatitis A and B since they are available, safe, and proven to be effective for the majority of people who get them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you get hepatitis if you have been vaccinated?

    Getting vaccinated with hepatitis protects you for life. This means that once you have gotten the vaccine, you become immune to the virus and cannot contract it through its various methods of transmission.

  • Does the hepatitis B vaccine protect against hepatitis C?

    Although the hepatitis B vaccine can’t protect you from contracting hepatitis C, research has shown that getting the hepatitis B vaccine while infected with hepatitis C may help to reduce ALT levels, which are levels used to determine liver damage.

  • Does hepatitis C have a vaccine?

    There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Research has shown that the virus is complex, which has made it difficult for scientific professionals to develop a safe and effective vaccine. That being said, studies and research are ongoing that paint a promising picture for the future of a potential vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.

  • How long does the hepatitis vaccine last?

    Studies have shown that hepatitis vaccines have a long protection life. Hepatitis B vaccines have been shown to be effective for up to 30 years, whereas hepatitis A vaccines can protect you for up to 20 years.

Was this page helpful?
17 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Hepatitis. Published September 1, 2019.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Viral Hepatitis? Updated July 28, 2020.

  3. Cao Y, Bing Z, Guan S, Zhang Z, Wang X. Development of new hepatitis E vaccines. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2018;14(9):2254-2262. doi:10.1080/21645515.2018.1469591

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B. Updated August 18, 2021.

  5. Ogholikhan S, Schwarz KB. Hepatitis Vaccines. Vaccines (Basel). 2016 Mar 11;4(1):6. doi:10.3390/vaccines4010006

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B questions and answers for health professionals. Updated July 28, 2020.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public. Updated July 28, 2020.

  8. McNeil MM, DeStefano F. Vaccine-associated hypersensitivity. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2018 Feb;141(2):463-472. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2017.12.971

  9. Immunization Action Coalition. Hepatitis A and B Vaccines: Be Sure Your Patients Get the Correct Dose.

  10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Package insert - Heplisav-B. Updated May 5, 2020.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A vaccines. Updated September 9, 2020.

  12. Cunha IS, Silva TCD, Malluta ÉF, Scolaro BL, Velho PS, Stall J. SEROCONVERSION ANALYSIS AFTER HABITUAL HEPATITIS B VACCINATION SCHEME IN PATIENTS WITH INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASES. Arq Gastroenterol. 2020 Jan-Mar;57(1):69-73. doi:10.1590/S0004-2803.202000000-12

  13. Meireles LC, Marinho RT, Van Damme P. Three decades of hepatitis B control with vaccination. World J Hepatol. 2015 Aug 28;7(18):2127-32. doi:10.4254/wjh.v7.i18.2127

  14. Lee SD, Chan CY, Yu MI, Lu RH, Chang FY, Lo KJ. Hepatitis B vaccination in patients with chronic hepatitis C. J Med Virol. 1999 Dec;59(4):463-8.

  15. Duncan JD, Urbanowicz RA, Tarr AW, Ball JK. Hepatitis C Virus Vaccine: Challenges and Prospects. Vaccines (Basel). 2020 Feb 17;8(1):90. doi:10.3390/vaccines8010090

  16. Bruce MG, Bruden D, Hurlburt D, Zanis C, Thompson G, Rea L, Toomey M, Townshend-Bulson L, Rudolph K, Bulkow L, Spradling PR, Baum R, Hennessy T, McMahon BJ. Antibody Levels and Protection After Hepatitis B Vaccine: Results of a 30-Year Follow-up Study and Response to a Booster Dose. J Infect Dis. 2016 Jul 1;214(1):16-22. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiv748

  17. Spradling PR, Bulkow LR, Negus SE, Homan C, Bruce MG, McMahon BJ. Persistence of seropositivity among persons vaccinated for hepatitis A during infancy by maternal antibody status: 15-year follow-up. Hepatology. 2016 Mar;63(3):703-11. doi:10.1002/hep.28375