Serious liver infections such as hepatitis A are transmitted through contact with contaminated objects, food and infected individuals. One of the reasons that make it necessary for individuals to take the vaccine is the transmission of the infection from individuals who may not show any symptoms of the disease. Hepatitis A infections in the US have increased by more than 44%, and the rate of hospitalizations have also increased. The highly contagious infection is best controlled by single dose antigen. The following sections are intended to offer detailed information about the infection, the vaccine and the possible side effects of hep a vaccine. This will help individuals to taken an informed decision and mitigate adverse outcomes.

What is hepatitis A, and how does the infection spread?

Hepatitis A is an infection that causes liver inflammation with the possibility of sickness that could be either mild or severe in nature. The sickness may last for weeks, before patients make a full recovery. In a small section of patients, there is the risk of long-term liver damage. The possibility of fatal liver failure is extremely rare, though possible, and is typically linked to other liver and age-related conditions. Risk of spread of the infection is mainly due to unhygienic conditions, habits and poor sanitation. Dwellings that do not have access to clean water are also risk prone areas.

Hepatitis A infections spread from person to person through contact, and through contaminated products and water.  One of the reasons for neighborhoods with poor sanitation to be regarded as high-risk areas, is the possibility of individuals coming in contact with feces of patients with the infection. Additionally, contaminated needles and sex between men are also possible causes for the spread of the infection.

What kind of symptoms are typically experienced/observed?

The infection has typical symptoms that are clearly indicative. Fever, tiredness, sudden loss of appetite, and a change in the color of the skin are other clear tell-tale symptoms. Patients with the infection are also known to have stomach pain and nausea. Most of the symptoms are known to resolve in less than two months, with some patients requiring hospitalization. Individuals who are infected and recover from the infection are protected for life from the infection or re-infection. This is due to the antibodies generated it the body that will give protection to the individual. Possible symptoms include


Hepatitis A vaccines  

Vaccines that are used for controlling the transmission of the infection are of two types – single antigen and combination vaccination for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The single antigen vaccine is typically administered in two doses with a gap of six months between both the shots. The combination vaccine is suitable only for people above the age of 18 years and is given as a three-shot vaccine. All three shots are administered within a period of six months.

Who are at risk and require to be vaccinated on priority?

As mentioned above, the mode of transmission of the virus is primarily through contact, sex between men, contaminated food/water and as a result of poor sanitation and hygiene. The probability of close contact and poor sanitation/hygiene is reportedly more among individuals on the streets, the homeless, and drug addicts. Additionally, travelers who have returned from nations with here the hepatitis A/ or B infections are rampant, require to be vaccinated on arrival on priority. Another category of individuals who need to be vaccinated on priority include patients with chronic liver conditions, cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis B/C.

Protection from the infection begins around or 2 weeks from the time of administration of the first shot, and individuals vaccinated with both doses receive protection or immunity from the infection for as long as twenty years or lifetime.

Are there any side effects of hep A vaccine and what needs to be done?

Vaccines like medications come with the burden of possible adverse effects. Mild/moderate effects of the vaccine are relatively common and frequent in occurrence and may resolve naturally in a few days. This may not require any additional treatment or attention. usually resolve in a few days and may not require medical intervention. Effects that are classified as adverse or serious may require some kind of medical attention or intervention. In rare circumstances, it may be necessary to seek urgent medical attention or treat a healthcare facility. This is mainly from conditions that may quickly aggravate.

Undesirable effects that frequently occur include swelling at or around the site of injection. Most individuals may experience some kind of warmth when the injection is administered. This could also turn red in the period immediately after the injection.  Vaccinated individuals may end up with an unusual appetite loss. This may not last for a long time and will return to normal in a few days after the injection. Other commonly reported effects include nausea, headache, and low grade fever. Vaccinated individuals are likely to end up with slightly affected routines as a result of a general overall sick feeling.

Adverse effects of the vaccine

As outlined earlier, there is the possibility of strong or adverse effects from the vaccine. The actual intensity or duration of the effects may vary according to different factors. Depending on the outcome, it may be necessary to seek intervention that is appropriate to the condition.

Adverse effects of the hep A vaccine include an abnormal loss of voice in the period immediately after the injection. In others, there could be possible nasal congestion, running nose and sneezing that is atypical. There is also the possibility of individuals experiencing difficulty in breathing during this period. There are easily discernible symptoms that also indicate effects that require treatment. This includes sore throat and a reddish color in the area around the ears.

Other symptoms that are indicative of effects of concern include body pain and swelling in the face – typically around the eyes, and insides of the nose.  Wheezing, a tightness in the chest, and difficulty in swallowing food or water, are other symptoms. In addition to the above, there is the possibility of lymph gland inflammation. This could occur either in the neck, armpits or groin. Individuals who have been vaccinated are also likely to experience congestion in the ears, and cough that may or may not accompanied by chest congestion.

Are there any possible drug interactions of hep A vaccine?

Hep A vaccines may interact with drugs that affect the immune system, corticosteroids and cancer chemotherapy treatments. The immune activation of lymphocytes is one of the reasons for the drug interactions, wherein B, T cells are released, which in turn attack the antigen in the vaccine, compromising the efficacy of the vaccine to afford long term protect form the infection.

Pre-vaccination measures

Individuals are likely to be either unaware or apprehensive of the kind of measures or precautions necessary before a vaccination. Common cold is not a condition to stop the vaccination, and would have no effect whatsoever. However, a severe cold or a persistent cold can be a valid reason to put off the vaccination. Individuals who are ill can wait till recovery from the illness before taking the shots.

There are specific conditions and circumstances which make it unsuitable for the individuals to take the vaccination. Allergies or allergic reactions to the hepatitis A vaccine or ingredients in the vaccine are a reason to avoid the vaccine. This is because individuals who have been sensitized to the vaccine or ingredients are likely to show increased or stronger reactions the second time. Individuals with a history of allergies to Neomycin and Yeast join the category of individuals who are allergic to the vaccine or ingredients.

Do certain effects warrant a medical intervention or emergency?

While most of the side effects are not known to cause any serious effects that require emergency intervention, there are certain conditions that can swiftly aggravate. This may then manifest as a serious condition with unfortunate outcomes. Allergies are known to manifest into serious conditions quickly, and most individuals tend to trivialize allergies. There are clear indications of allergies that require intervention. For instance, any difficulty in breathing is to be regarded as a reason for seeking treatment. Similarly, hives, or any unusual spike in heart rate are indications of allergies that require treatment. Any abnormal facial swelling/inflammation is also to be treated with a fair degree of caution. Other possible symptoms of allergies include swelling in the throat.

Is the hep A vaccine safe? Does it contain a live virus as claimed by some?

Contrary to wrong information and perceptions, the hep A vaccine does not contain any live virus. As the vaccine does not contain a live virus, it is also recommended to be taken by pregnant women and patients with auto immune conditions. This by itself, is a testimony of the safety of the vaccine. The vaccine is fully safe and has been tried and tested following which it has been approved by the FDA to prevent the mass outbreak of the infections. Most individuals who are not screened may end up taking a vaccine for a different form of hepatitis and therefore, it may appear as ineffective, as the single antigen vaccine is specifically meant o protect from hep A infections. Individuals looking for vaccination are to understand the form of outbreaks and seek suitable vaccines.

Since recovery is highly likely, why should one take the vaccine at all?

It is true that individuals who are infected with hep A, are likely to recover and receive lifelong protection from the infection. However, it is not possible to clearly predict if the effects will be mild or severe. There is an element of risk in this, as an individual who expects to be largely unaffected by the symptoms may actually end up hospitalized or under treatment for weeks, throwing normal life into disarray. It is therefore necessary to take adequate precautions to stay protected and continue routines unaffected.


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