Prevalence rates of hepatitis A infections have witnessed a steady increase in the US, by around 44 percent. Total caseloads reported across the US are around 42000, with more than 61 percentage of patients requiring hospitalizations. The liver infection belongs to the category of highly contagious infections and vaccination drives consisting of single dose antigen vaccines are typically known to control the outbreaks. Medications come with the possibility of undesirable outcomes, and vaccines are no exceptions, with recipients reporting mild to severe outcomes. Here is a detailed look at the vaccine and the side effects of hep a vaccine.

Overview of hepatitis and possible causes

Attributed to the hepatitis A virus, the infection could cause different symptoms in individuals – from mild to severe illnesses that could either last for a couple of weeks or as long as a few months. Fatalities are relatively rare, as can be seen from the statistics – around 383 patients have succumbed to the infection out of 42000 infections. The virus, contagious in nature, may spread through one of many reasons. For instance, contaminated food, contact with feces of infected patients, sex (especially men indulging in sex with men), contaminated needles, injections, and physical contact of care givers with patients.

Symptoms commonly associated with hepatitis A infection

Patients afflicted with the condition experience certain symptoms that help identify the condition. For instance, individuals may experience extreme tiredness that is not attributed to any other reason. There is the possibility of a sudden and abnormal loss of appetite, while many may have visible or easily discernible symptoms such as a distinct change in the color of the skin. A yellowish tinge may be observed in the skin, while some patients may experience pain in the stomach apart from nausea.

The symptoms are known to resolve in around eight weeks after infection, and in some cases, hospitalization may be necessary for patients.

Types of vaccines presently administered for hepatitis A

In the US, three different vaccines are approved, and administered to control the outbreak that has been recorded across 36 states, since 2016. The approved vaccines include two different types of single antigen vaccines and one vaccine of the combination category. Individuals belonging to the high-risk category require vaccination to break the chain, and stop the spread. For instance, homeless individuals are at high risk of contracting infections, and require vaccination on priority. Similarly, men who indulge in sexual acts with men require the vaccine on priority.

Other categories include drug addicts, and individuals who have returned from visits to nations where hepatitis A viral infections are relatively common. Finally, individuals diagnosed with chronic liver conditions, including cirrhosis of the liver, or hepatitis B or hepatitis C need to be vaccinated on priority. Two dosages are typically administered with a gap of 24 weeks between the two doses.

Commonly reported side effects of hep a vaccine

It is now time to look at the commonly reported undesirable outcomes of the vaccine. As with all medications or vaccines, the die effects are typically either mild/moderate or serious in nature. The mild/moderate conditions usually resolve in a few days and may not require medical intervention. These effects may be relatively common in occurrence among patients. Serious or adverse effects may require medical intervention as some conditions may aggravate into situations that require emergency medical care. These life-threatening conditions are relatively rare in occurrence.

For instance, commonly reported side effects include swelling at the site of injection. Individuals receiving the shot may experience an abnormal warm sensation at the side of administration, or a reddish appearance. A sudden loss of appetite is another mild symptom that usually resolves in a few days after the shot. Feelings of nausea or a throbbing headache are also typically experienced by individuals receiving the vaccination. Other symptoms include low grade fever and an overall feeling of illness that has a moderate impact on routine actions.

Undesirable effects that are rare in occurrence

Apart from the above commonly occurring effects, there is also the possibility of rare side effects. The intensity of the side effects may differ from person to person and depending on the severity, appropriate remedial measures may be required. Recipients of the vaccine may experience sudden loss of voice or nasal congestion. Similarly, there is the possibility of individuals ending up with a running nose, abnormal sneezing, and slight difficulty in breathing. Sore throat and reddish tinge to the area around the ears are other possible symptoms that may be witnessed.

Pain in the body, and swelling around the eyes, the face or on the inside of the nose are other possible indications of rare side effects. Some individuals are known to end up with wheezing, while many are likely to experience a distinct tight feeling in the chest that may be accompanied with difficulty in swallowing either food or water. Other symptoms include possible painful inflammation of the lymph glands in the neck, in the armpit or in the groin area. Finally, vaccinated persons may also experience some form of congestion and cough, apart from congestion in the ears.

General precautions among patients looking to get vaccinated

It is advisable to follow general precautions while getting vaccinated. For instance, individuals with a minor cold can safely take the vaccine, though individuals with severe cold or other illnesses are advised to wait till recovery. Persons with specific conditions are advised to avoid the vaccine to prevent aggravation of condition. For instance, individuals who have had allergies in the past to either the hepatitis A vaccine or any active ingredient in the vaccine are to avoid the shot. Similarly, individuals who allergic to any ingredient that is present in the vaccine are to avoid taking the shot. Allergic reactions include allergies to Neomycin and Yeast.

The need to seek medical attention in certain situations

Most individuals tend to ignore certain conditions with an incorrect assessment of outcomes. For instance, allergies have the potential to turn into serious conditions in a short span of time. Certain allergies can effectively turn fatal in nature, and therefore require urgent medical attention or triage in a healthcare facility. Hives, difficulty in breathing, a sudden and abnormal increase in heart rate, and swelling or inflammation in the face or the throat are all possible indications of allergies that could be serious in nature. A dizzy feeling and general weakness are other possible indications that may require some form of attention to mitigate or prevent the onset of serious conditions.

Know your vaccine

These vaccines do not contain a live virus and are considered safe for administration to prevent mass outbreaks of contagious diseases. Administered as intramuscular shots, the vaccines approved in the US include HAVRIX, VAQTA and TWINRIX. The first two vaccines are single antigen vaccines administered in two doses six months apart. This provides long term protection from the infection, and are suitable for most age groups, including children above the age of one. The third vaccine belongs to the category of combination vaccine and is administered for individuals in the age group of 18 and above. This is typically administered in three doses within a six-month period and offers long term protection from hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

It is important to bear in mind that vaccines for hepatitis A will not offer protection from other forms of hepatitis infections. Therefore, the shots need to be administered after carefully assessing the risks and the possible outbreaks of different forms of hepatitis in the area. As mentioned above the vaccines do not contain a live virus and by virtue of this, the vaccine is also safe for individuals with compromised immune systems, and women who are either pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

Is it really necessary to take the hepatitis A shots?

A section of individuals hold certain misconceptions about hepatitis A and question the need for vaccination. This is mainly due to the perceptions that hepatitis A infections do not require hospitalization. This is an erroneous assumption, as more than 61 percent of the infected have reportedly been hospitalized. Additionally, it is important to bear in mind that the effect of the infection may differ from person to person and there is very little evidence to predict or identify individuals who may not experience adverse effects. In the absence of such information, it is necessary to take all precautions and get vaccinated, especially if the outbreak is high in the area.

Additionally, while the infections typically result in recovery within a couple of weeks, there are possibilities of individuals experiencing extended or prolonged complications/conditions due to the infection. Tis is known to last for as long as 24 weeks, and could effectively have an impact on routines, and professional/personal responsibilities.

Possible drug interactions

While the vaccines are considered as safe for administration, the possibility of drug interactions cannot be entirely ruled out. It is is necessary to seek medical advice regarding drug interactions, especially if the intended recipient is on long term medication belonging to certain categories of drugs. For instance, there is a possibility of the vaccine interacting with drugs that are known to weaken the immune system. Individuals on corticosteroids and treatment regimens including cancer chemotherapy are to seek medical advice prior to taking the shot. This is mainly as a result of the mechanism of action of the vaccines, which typically result in immune activation of lymphocytes. The sequence of action results in the release and stimulation of B, T cells that attack the hepatitis A antigen. When medications have an impact on this mechanism of action, or when this mechanism of action has an impact on other medications, it may be necessary to avoid either, depending on the importance and outcome of each.

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