Vaccination against hepatitis A is not routinely offered in the UK because the risk of infection is low for most people. It's only recommended for people at high risk.
Who should have the hepatitis A vaccine
People usually advised to have the hepatitis A vaccine include:
- close contacts of someone with hepatitis A
- people planning to travel to or live in parts of the world where hepatitis A is widespread, particularly if sanitation and food hygiene are expected to be poor
- people with any type of long-term liver disease
- men who have sex with other men
- people who inject illegal drugs
- people who may be exposed to hepatitis A through their job – this includes sewage workers, people who work for organisations where levels of personal hygiene may be poor, such as a homeless shelter, and people working with monkeys, apes and gorillas
Contact your GP surgery if you think you should have the hepatitis A vaccine or you're not sure whether you need it.
Types of hepatitis A vaccine
There are 3 main types of hepatitis A vaccination:
- a vaccine for hepatitis A only
- a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and typhoid fever
Talk to your GP about which vaccine is most suitable for you. All 3 types are usually available for free on the NHS.
Plan your vaccinations in advance if you're travelling abroad. They should ideally be started at least 2 or 3 weeks before you leave, although some can be given up to the day of your departure if necessary.
Extra doses of the vaccine are often recommended after 6 to 12 months if you need long-term protection.
You can find more information about the various hepatitis A vaccines on the NHS Fit for Travel website.
Side effects of the hepatitis A vaccine
Some people have temporary soreness, redness and hardening of the skin at the injection site after having the hepatitis A vaccine.
A small, painless lump may also form, but it usually disappears quickly and is not a cause for concern.
Less common side effects include:
- a slightly raised temperature
- feeling unwell
- a headache
- feeling sick
- loss of appetite