Hepatitis Vaccine: What You Need to Know

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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.

What to Know About the Hepatitis Vaccine - Illustration by Michela Buttignol

Verywell / Michela Buttignol


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

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.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.