Hepatitis is an acute liver infection caused by the hepatitis virus. The most common hepatitis viruses in humans are the A, B, and C viruses. There are effective vaccines against hepatitis A and B. Hepatitis A or B vaccine is available separately on the market, but there is also a combination vaccine that provides protection against both viruses.
Hepatitis A vaccine
In Finland, hepatitis A is rare and the infection is often acquired by travel. The hepatitis A vaccine is one of the most common vaccines for tourists. The disease is common in the world and is most prevalent in Africa, Asia, South and Central America, and Eastern Europe. A person with the disease excretes a lot of the virus in the faeces. You can get the infection, for example, from dirty toilets or through contaminated food and drink. The virus can also end up in the water through the waste water. Sources of infection can also be poorly cooked seafood, vegetables washed with dirty water, dirty drinking water or ice cubes.
In children under school age, the disease is often mild or even asymptomatic, but mild and asymptomatic infectious disease also spreads. In adults, the disease is more severe and recovery can take months. A form of the disease that leads to liver damage is rare.
The hepatitis A vaccine can be given from the age of 1 year and provides protection against the disease for at least 30 years. The vaccine series consists of 2 doses, second of which is given 6 to 12 months after the first dose. The protection provided by the vaccine begins approximately 2 weeks after the first dose. However, the vaccine is effective even if it is taken just before the trip: hepatitis A has an incubation period of about 3 to 6 weeks, so the vaccine can also be given after exposure to hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B vaccine
Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and unprotected sex. The disease can be transmitted for example, from dirty drug-, tattoo-, piercing needles, accidents or treatment procedures with dirty equipment. Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding can also cause mother-to-child transmission. Hepatitis B is rare in Finland, but there are about 250 million hepatitis B carriers worldwide. The disease is most prevalent in Africa and Southeast Asia. The prevalence is moderate in Russia and the eastern Mediterranean.
A small part of people with hepatitis B develop a serious infection. In some cases, the disease also becomes chronic, ie the person becomes a permanent carrier of the virus. The disease rarely becomes chronic in adults, but very often in children. Chronic hepatitis B can cause liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The vaccination series consists of three vaccinations, second 1 month after the first and a third at 6 to 12 months after the first dose. The vaccine can also be given to a newborn baby. Protection requires 2 vaccinations and a series of three vaccinations will provide lifelong protection against hepatitis B. The vaccination series can also be given at an accelerated schedule. In addition, the vaccine may be given after exposure to the infection.
Hepatitis A + B combination vaccine
If you are considering taking both vaccines, the most sensible option is often to take the hepatitis A + B combination vaccine. The combination vaccine provides lifelong protection against hepatitis B and at least 30 years of protection against hepatitis A. The combination vaccine is also a cheaper option than taking both hepatitis A and B vaccines separately and at the same time reduces the number of vaccinations.
The vaccination series consists of 3 doses, second given 1 month after the first dose and a third 6 months after the first dose. The vaccine can be given from 1 year of age. For those aged 16 and over, an accelerated vaccination series can also be used, for example, before the trip.
2 doses are needed to provide the protection provided by the combination vaccine. Individual hepatitis A or B vaccinations can also be continued with the combination vaccine. It is important to remember that only a complete series of vaccinations will provide long-term protection.
If you have any questions, you can contact our Vaccination Clinics! Our nurses will help you if you do not know which hepatitis vaccination you need for your trip.