To prevent infection with the hepatitis A virus, vaccination offers the best protection. It is generally well tolerated, so rarely have mild side effects. If only a vaccine against hepatitis A, two doses of vaccine are needed. If, on the other hand, a combination vaccine for hepatitis A and B is used, it must be vaccinated three times. Thereafter, you are protected for at least twelve years, a refresher is recommended at the earliest after ten years. The cost of vaccination must often be borne by yourself.
Active and passive vaccination
In general, hepatitis A distinguishes between active and passive vaccination. The active vaccination takes place with a dead vaccine containing parts of the hepatitis A virus. There is no danger that the vaccine will cause hepatitis A disease. The vaccine produces antibodies against the pathogen in the body. If an infection takes place at a later time, they catch the viruses and prevent the disease from breaking out.
In certain groups of people, human antibodies are used instead of the dead vaccine. This is called passive vaccination. The procedure is used among others in chronically ill or persons with a weakened immune system. Likewise, this type of vaccine is used when there is an allergy to a component of the normal vaccine. The protective effect lasts only for three months.
Two vaccine appointments needed
If only hepatitis A vaccination takes place, it must be vaccinated at two different times. After that, the basic immunization is complete. After the first vaccine dose, about 95 percent of patients have antibodies to the hepatitis A virus in their blood. It takes about 12 to 15 days for the antibodies to form. Due to the rapid effect, the vaccine can also be carried out shortly before a trip.
The second vaccination should take place about six to twelve months after the first one. Thereafter, those affected are protected for at least twelve years from infection with the pathogen. However, it is estimated that the vaccine will last much longer - possibly 20 to 25 years. Nevertheless, it is recommended for risk groups to refresh the vaccine after ten to twelve years.
Who should get vaccinated?
Hepatitis A vaccination is generally recommended for the following groups:
- Travelers traveling to an area at increased risk for hepatitis A infection.
- People with chronic liver disease.
- Persons who are transferred to more frequent blood components, for example in hemophilia.
- Persons working in hospitals or nursing homes, nurseries or children's homes or in the police.
- Persons who come into direct contact with wastewater, such as workers in sewage treatment plants.
- Gay men.
Side effects of vaccination
The hepatitis A vaccine is injected into the muscle - either at the buttocks, upper arm or thigh - and is generally considered to be well tolerated. Nevertheless, it can sometimes lead to side effects. These include primarily mild redness and swelling at the injection site. Likewise, mild disease symptoms such as fatigue, an increase in body temperature and gastrointestinal discomfort may occur. The side effects that occur are always dependent on the vaccine used. Therefore, talk to your doctor about possible side effects before surgery.
Combined hepatitis A and B vaccine
The hepatitis A vaccine can be given as a single vaccine or in combination with hepatitis B or typhoid fever. If a hepatitis A and B vaccine is chosen, a total of three vaccinations must be given until the primary vaccination is obtained. Here, similar to the single vaccine against hepatitis B, two vaccinations have to be given every four weeks. The third vaccine, which provides long-term protection of at least ten to twelve years, should be between six and twelve months after the first injection.
In the case of a short-term journey, where it is not possible to complete the primary immunization beforehand, a vaccination according to another scheme is possible. The second dose is given one week, the third dose three weeks after the first vaccination. In such a case, it makes sense to get vaccinated with a fourth dose after about twelve months.
Cost of vaccination
Travel vaccination costs are not always covered by health insurance in adults. Some funds will refund the fee if the vaccine is recommended by the Standing Vaccination Commission of the Robert Koch Institute (STIKO). Others only pay the fee the doctor demands for injecting the vaccine. Therefore, you should always ask your health insurance company about the reimbursement.
If the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended because of occupational exposure, the costs are usually borne by the employer.
The cost of a hepatitis A vaccine depends on the vaccine used. This costs about 50 euros per injection. In addition, there are the costs that the doctor calculates for the vaccine itself. These may vary depending on which sentence the doctor uses for his calculations. The cost of a combined vaccine against hepatitis A and B is about 230 euros.