Generic NameBrand Name
inactivated hepatitis A vaccineAvaxim, Havrix, Vaqta

How It Works

In response to the vaccine, which contains an inactive form of hepatitis A virus (HAV), the body makes antibodies against HAV. This response is known as active immunity.

This vaccine is given as a shot (injection) most often into the upper arm (deltoid) muscle.

Why It Is Used

The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for people whose travel, job, medical condition, or lifestyle puts them at risk of exposure to the virus. The hepatitis A vaccine also may be given to someone after being exposed to the hepatitis A virus. The vaccine can prevent hepatitis A infection in most people when given immediately prior to the exposure.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the vaccine for:footnote 2

  • People who will travel to a foreign country where sanitary conditions are poor and hepatitis A is common. Plan for the vaccine 6 months before travel, if possible.footnote 4 But the hepatitis A vaccine does offer protection for most travellers if the shot is given up to the day prior to travelling. It is recommended that travellers schedule an appointment with their doctor or travel medicine clinic at least 2 to 3 months in advance to schedule their immunizations.footnote 1
  • People who live in areas where there are hepatitis A outbreaks or a high chance of having an outbreak.
  • People whose lifestyles may expose them to the virus, such as using illegal drugs and high-risk sex habits.
  • People who work with monkeys or apes infected with HAV and those who work with HAV in a research setting.
  • People who have long-term (chronic) liver disease.
  • People who have blood-clotting disorders, such as hemophilia, and must receive clotting factors from human donors.
  • People who are awaiting or who have had a liver transplant.

The NACI also recommends the vaccine for high-risk children 1 year of age or older. But some provinces or territories may recommend the vaccine for high-risk children age 6 months and older.footnote 3

You can keep track of when your child received vaccines using the National Childhood Immunization Record (What is a PDF document?).

Routine vaccination of hospital workers, food handlers, and child care centre workers and attendees is not recommended at this time because their risk of infection generally is no greater than that of the wider community. If outbreaks of HAV infection do occur in those settings, people who were exposed to the virus should receive a shot of the vaccine or immunoglobulin (IG).footnote 3, footnote 5

The hepatitis A vaccine is believed to prevent HAV infection for at least 20 years.footnote 6

How Well It Works

Hepatitis A vaccine is 94% to 100% effective in preventing HAV infection when both shots in the vaccination series are given.footnote 7

The vaccine offers some protection within 2 weeks after the first dose. But to have long-term protection, adults and children need to have a second dose 6 to 18 months later (depending on the recommendation of the vaccine manufacturer).footnote 8

The vaccine provides very long-term protection. Adult boosters are not recommended by most provinces.

Side Effects

Although the hepatitis A vaccine contains components derived from human blood or plasma, there is no risk of exposure to blood-borne diseases.

The vaccine is licensed for use in Canada for people age 1 and older. But studies show that the vaccine is safe and effective for people 6 months of age or older who have no known allergies to the contents of the vaccine.

Reactions to the vaccine are mild and usually do not last for more than 24 hours. The most common side effects include:

  • Soreness, redness, and swelling where the shot was given.
  • Headache.
  • Tiredness, fever, and feeling sick to your stomach (nausea).

Even though serious allergic reactions are rare with this vaccine, call your doctor or local health unit right away if you or your child has trouble breathing, a high fever, or anything unusual after having the shot.

A child who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of hepatitis A vaccine should not get another dose of this vaccine. Tell your doctor or nurse if your child has had a severe reaction to any vaccine or has severe allergies.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The vaccine provides protection against hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection after the first shot. The hepatitis A vaccine has also been shown to prevent hepatitis A if given within the first week after being in contact with hepatitis A.footnote 1

People who are allergic to the vaccine should receive IG if they will be at risk of exposure to the hepatitis A virus.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (2006). Immunization for travellers. In Canadian Immunization Guide, 6th ed., p. 140. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. Also available online: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/gig-gci/p04-hepa-eng.php.
  2. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2006). Canadian Immunization Guide, 7th ed., pp. 1–372. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. Also available online: http://publications.gc.ca.
  3. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) (2006). Hepatitis A vaccine. In Canadian Immunization Guide, 7th ed., pp. 179–188. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. Also available online: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/cig-gci/p04-hepa-eng.php.
  4. Bell BP, et al. (2005). Hepatitis A virus. In GL Mandell et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th edition, vol. 2, pp. 2162–2185. Philadelphia: Elsevier.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006). Prevention of hepatitis A through active or passive immunization: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR, 55 (RR-7): 1–23. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr5507.pdf.
  6. Craig AS, Schaffner W (2004). Prevention of hepatitis A with the hepatitis A vaccine. New England Journal of Medicine, 350(5): 476–481.
  7. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Hepatitis A. In LK Pickering et al., eds., Red Book: 2009 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 28th ed., pp. 329–337. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
  8. Victor JC, et al. (2007). Hepatitis A vaccine versus immune globulin for postexposure prophylaxis. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(17): 1685–1694.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer William Atkinson, MD, MPH -
Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics

Current as ofNovember 17, 2015