About the vaccine
- When to get vaccinated: At least five weeks before travelling.
- Course: The vaccine schedule you need depends on your age and when you are travelling.
You may require 3 or 4 doses to be fully protected against both diseases. The nurse or pharmacist will assess which schedule is suitable for you.
- Accelerated course: In some cases, an accelerated course maybe suitable. The accelerated course consists of three doses prior to travel and a fourth dose 12 months later to fully complete the course. The second dose is given one week after the first dose and the third dose is given two weeks after the second dose.
- Boosters: You Once you have completed the full course you will be protected against hep A for 25 years and against hep B for 5 years.
If you remain at risk of either disease after your protection runs out you may need a booster.
- How it is given: An injection in the upper arm.
- Side effects: Very common side effects include pain or redness at the injection site. Common side effects include fever, headache and digestive problems.
- Children: The vaccine can be given to children over the age of 12 months.
- Additional precautions: You need to practise food safety as well as water and hand hygiene while in an area where hepatitis A is endemic. If travelling to a country where medical resources are limited, carry sterile needles with you and avoid getting piercings or tattoos. Use a condom every time you have sex to avoid catching hepatitis B during sex.
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Frequently Asked Question
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a viral infection, which affects the human liver. The hepatitis A virus is usually ingested via contaminated food or water and is endemic to countries with an insufficient sanitation system. It can spread rapidly and is known to cause sudden epidemics. After an incubation period of 2 – 4 weeks, patients usually develop hepatitis A symptoms such as fever, digestive problems and jaundice. The severity of the symptoms varies in different people and can range from mild to very severe. In rare cases, hepatitis A can lead to complications such as cholestasis and liver failure. According to the World Health Organisation, every year there are about 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A worldwide.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a type of hepatitis, a viral infection which can cause damage to the liver. Unlike hepatitis A, the hepatitis B virus is not usually transmitted via contaminated water but rather from person to person. It is often passed during sex or when using contaminated needles and medical equipment. Hepatitis B has a long incubation period of 30 – 180 days and is often symptomless.
Possible hepatitis B symptoms are feeling or being sick, tiredness and headache as well as flu-like symptoms. Some patients also develop a yellowing of skin and eyes, which is called jaundice. The infection can persist for a long time and become chronic hepatitis B, resulting in liver damage and failure.
If you are travelling to an area where hepatitis B is a common illness, you require a hepatitis B vaccine. The same goes for healthcare workers and medical professionals, who are more likely to be exposed to the infection.
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 600,000 people die every year as a result of hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection and its chronic consequences.
As most vaccinations, hepatitis a and b vaccination can cause side effects in some patients.
Very common side effects are redness, swelling, bruising, pain or a burning sensation at the injection site. Common side effects include fever, feeling drowsy, feeling irritable, digestive problems, feeling unwell, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness and diarrhoea.
The course will depend on your age and when you are travelling. There are two different brands of vaccine, so your schedule will depend on which one you receive.
The most common schedule for last minute travellers consists of three doses, the second of which is given seven days after the first, followed by the third 14 days after the second dose. This schedule requires an additional dose after 12 months to complete the course.
Please note: For travellers under 18 combined schedules can take several months so non-combined vaccines may be preferable to ensure you’re protected in time – your nurse or pharmacist will recommend the most suitable vaccines and schedules.
The most common schedule for last minute travellers consists of three doses, the second of which is given seven days after the first, followed by the third 14 days after the second dose. On this schedule, you need an additional dose 12 months later to remain protected. The vaccine schedule differs depending on your age, how soon you are travelling and which brand of vaccine you receive. The nurse or pharmacist will recommend the most suitable vaccine and schedule.
Once you have completed the full course you will be protected against hepatitis A for 25 years and against hepatitis B for 5 years. You may need additional boosters thereafter to stay protected.
Who needs it?
Recommended when travelling to a risk country.
The vaccine can be given to children over the age of 12 months. However, the schedule for children can take several months to complete. If you are travelling in the near future, you may need to use non-combined vaccines for hepatitis A and B to ensure protection prior to travel.