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Immunization

Hepatitis A and B (HABV) Vaccine

Immunization protects you from disease.
Get protected, get immunized.

  • Vaccines make your immune system stronger by building antibodies, which help prevent diseases.
  • Immunization is safe. It is much safer to get immunized than to get these diseases.

Who should have HABV vaccine?

This vaccine is given to people with liver problems and to people who are at risk for hepatitis A and B (e.g., some bleeding disorders, lifestyle).

Talk to a public health nurse to find out if you qualify for HABV vaccine for free. A blood test may be needed to check that you need the vaccine (are not already protected).

Some people (e.g., travellers) may benefit from HABV vaccine, but it is not free. Check with your health insurance provider as some plans may cover the cost.

How many doses of this vaccine are needed?

Most people need 3 doses, which are given over 6 months.

Are there other vaccines that protect against hepatitis A and B?

Many people may have already received hepatitis A or B vaccine and may not need HABV. Some of these people include:

  • People who received hepatitis B vaccine in school (e.g., most people born in 1982 or later who went to school in Alberta)
  • People who have received hepatitis A or B vaccines for travelling.
  • People who received hepatitis B vaccine combined with tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus Influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-HIB-HB) vaccine as infants.

DTaP-IPV-Hib-HB was available in Canada since 2008, but was not used for most infants in Alberta until after February 2018.

Check with a public health nurse or your healthcare provider if you are not sure if hepatitis A or hepatitis B vaccine have already been given.

How well does the vaccine work?

After 3 doses given as recommended, protection is:

  • 90% to 97% effective for hepatitis A
  • 95% to 100% effective for hepatitis B

Where can I get the vaccine?

Anyone who qualifies for free vaccine can contact the public health office in their area.

If you do not qualify for free vaccine, you need to pay for it and should contact a travel health clinic (e.g., AHS Travel Health Services) or speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Are there side effects from HABV vaccine?

Reactions to the vaccine are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:

  • redness, swelling, and discomfort where the needle was given
  • headache
  • feeling tired or irritable
  • poor appetite, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • fever

It is important to stay at the clinic for 15 minutes after immunization because people can have a rare but serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). If anaphylaxis happens, you will be given medicine to treat the symptoms.

Unusual reactions can happen. Call Health Link at 811 to report any unusual reactions.

How can I manage side effects?

  • To help with discomfort and swelling, put a cool, wet cloth over the area.
  • If you need fever or pain medicine, check with your pharmacist or doctor. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 19 years old because it can cause serious health problems.
  • Some people with health problems (e.g., weak immune system) must call their doctor whenever they get a fever. If you have been told to do this, call your doctor—even if you think the fever was due to immunization.

Is there anyone who cannot have HABV vaccine?

You may not be able to have the vaccine if you:

  • have an allergy to parts of the vaccine—always tell your healthcare provider about allergies.
  • had a severe or unusual reaction after this vaccine (or a similar one)—always tell your healthcare provider if you have had reactions.

You can be immunized if you have a mild illness (e.g., cold), even if you have a fever.

For More Information

Disease Quick Facts

Hepatitis A

  • a virus that causes poor appetite, nausea, tiredness, fever, and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • symptoms can be severe and last for months
  • 1 out of 4 adults need hospitalization
  • can lead to death in rare cases
  • People who already have liver problems, have a weak immune system, or are over 60 years of age are at highest risk for more serious illness if they get hepatitis A.
  • Spread by infected stool getting onto hands or into food and water, and then into the mouth.

Hepatitis B

  • a virus that causes short-term symptoms including: poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • 1 out of 10 adults who are infected with hepatitis B, will have chronic infection
  • the younger you are, the higher the chance of chronic infection (e.g., more than 9 out of 10 babies who are infected with hepatitis B will have chronic infection)
  • people with chronic hepatitis B infection have it forever and can spread it to others, even if they do not look or feel sick
  • chronic infection can lead to liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer and death
  • can spread when there is contact with blood or body fluids from a person who is infected (e.g., childbirth, sex)
  • can spread by objects contaminated with blood or body fluids (e.g., needles, razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, equipment used in tattoos, piercings, or acupuncture that is not cleaned properly

Current as of: January 1, 2019

Author: Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services