Hepatitis Vaccine Side Effects

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

Getting vaccinations is the best way to prevent many diseases in the United States. However, that doesn’t mean that these vaccinations come without any side effects. If you are thinking about getting a vaccination for hepatitis, there are some potential side effects and other information that you should know.


Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. It can be caused by an infection from one of the three forms of hepatitis: A, B or C. In addition, other factors can cause this type of swelling in the liver, including infection from a parasite or bacteria, liver damage from alcohol, immune cells attacking the liver or an overdose of acetaminophen. Hepatitis can have severe complications, including liver cancer, permanent liver damage or even liver failure.

The Hepatitis Vaccine

Of the three forms of the hepatitis virus (A, B and C), vaccines are only available for A and B, at the moment. Although researchers are working on it, there are currently no vaccines available for the hepatitis C virus.

For both the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines, an inactivated form of the virus is used. It is usually administered through an injection into the muscle of the upper arm, although toddlers may have the injection in their thigh muscles.

  • With hepatitis A, two doses of the vaccine are required.
  • With the hepatitis B vaccine, three doses are required before the vaccination is complete.
  • Both vaccines are recommended for all individuals – babies usually receive the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, while the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for children starting at the age of 1.

The hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines have proven to be very effective. With the hepatitis A vaccine, protection generally lasts for at least 14 to 20 years for children and at least 25 years for adults. About 9 out of 10 individuals who receive the hepatitis B vaccine develop protective antibodies, which cause them to become immune to the virus.

Possible Side Effects

Each of the hepatitis vaccines comes with some possible side effects. For the hepatitis A vaccine, side effects may include:

  • Most common: Feeling soreness in the arm in which the injection was given is the most common side effect experienced by those who receive the vaccine. The likelihood of having this occur correlates to the age at which an individual receives the vaccination. According to VaccineInformation.org, about 1 in 5 children and 1 out of 2 adults experience this side effect.
  • Somewhat common: Some people who get the hepatitis A vaccine experience a headache, low-grade fever, tiredness or loss of appetite. With each of these side effects, the symptoms typically begin 3 to 5 days after the vaccination has been given and last for a day or two.
  • Rare: A few people who receive this vaccination experience an allergic reaction within a few minutes or a few hours of the injection. This is a very rare but serious side effect, and medical attention should be sought out immediately if it occurs.

The possible side effects for the hepatitis B vaccine include:

  • Most common: The most common side effect of the hepatitis B vaccine is soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site or a low-grade fever. These side effects usually occur in less than 1 out of 3 children who receive the vaccine. However, adults who receive the hepatitis B vaccine are more likely to experience these symptoms.
  • Rare: Hepatitis B vaccinations can cause a serious allergic reaction in some individuals. This is a very rare but serious side effect which requires immediate medical attention.

It’s important to note that certain individuals are advised to not receive the hepatitis vaccine. If you have experienced a serious allergic reaction to a dose of either vaccine, you should not continue the vaccination process. In addition, those with hypersensitivity to yeast should not receive the hepatitis B vaccine. Neither vaccine should be administered to someone with a moderate or severe acute illness – in these cases, the vaccination should be postponed until the person’s condition has improved.

Making A Decision

Unless you fall into one of the categories of people who should not receive the vaccine, it is recommended that you get vaccinated for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The side effects are generally very mild, and in many cases those who receive the vaccination feel no side effects at all. The benefits far outweigh these side effects since protecting against hepatitis can help prevent severe damage to the liver and other serious health problems. Among the many organizations and entities which recommend the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
  • The American College of Physicians (ACP)
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

If you have any questions about whether you should get the hepatitis vaccinations, talk to your doctor.


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