The hepatitis A virus (HAV) causes fever, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice, and can lead to community-wide epidemics. Childcare centers are a common site of outbreaks.
The vaccine is recommended for children 12-23 months old, followed by a second dose 6-18 months later.
Additionally, the vaccine is recommended for older kids and adults who are at high risk for the disease. This includes people who live in, travel to, or adopt children from locations with high rates of HAV; people with clotting disorders; and people with chronic liver disease. It also can be given to anyone who desires immunity to the disease.
The HAV vaccine also is useful for staff of childcare facilities or schools where they may be at risk of exposure. If you plan to travel, consult your doctor in advance so you and your family have time to complete any required immunizations.
Why the Vaccine Is Recommended
Besides protecting the individual child, vaccination against HAV can help prevent epidemics. Some infected kids do not have any symptoms, but can still spread the virus to others. Having many young kids vaccinated against HAV can limit the spread of the disease in a community.
Side effects are usually mild fever, and tenderness, swelling, and redness at the site of the injection. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare.
When to Delay or Avoid Immunization
The vaccine is not recommended if your child:
is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine or has a latex allergy
Caring for Your Child After Immunization
Your child may have fever, soreness, and some swelling and redness in the area where the shot was given. Pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication and to find out the appropriate dose.
When to Call the Doctor
Call if you aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
Call if there are problems after the immunization.