Combined Hepatitis Vaccine for Extra Protection
The various types of viral hepatitis vary widely in how they affect people’s health. One strain may cause a temporary, mild illness while others can lead to a lifelong battle with chronic liver disease. Regardless of which hepatitis virus you are exposed to, the prognosis is always more grim if you are already infected with some other form of chronic hepatitis. Therefore, taking advantage of the vaccinations available for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B can help someone with another kind of hepatitis prevent a worsening of their condition by becoming infected with multiple hepatitis viruses.
Of particular concern are the four to five million Americans estimated to be living with chronic Hepatitis C. When burdened with an additional type of viral hepatitis, research has shown that those with chronic Hepatitis C experience more rapid progression of liver disease than those not infected by another form of hepatitis.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are two of the three most common viral hepatitis strains found in North America. Fortunately, vaccines to prevent these two infectious diseases are readily available. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine to prevent the other prevalent viral hepatitis, Hepatitis C. Adding insult to injury, Hepatitis C’s low cure rate, high infectivity and likelihood to cause chronic liver disease makes it the most perilous strain of the three common types of viral hepatitis. Due to the greater chance of liver damage with more than one kind of hepatitis, those with Hepatitis C are always advised to get vaccinated for both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Thanks to the marvels of Western medicine, a vaccine targeting both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B have been combined into one series of injections.
Luckily for those already infected with Hepatitis C, there is a preventative vaccine combining ammunition against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. By uniting two separate vaccination series into one, the Hepatitis A/B combination vaccine has made preventing these illnesses much simpler. Those considering this vaccination must know that they cannot get hepatitis from it because it does not contain a live virus. The combination vaccine is created from whole, killed Hepatitis A virus and a genetically engineered piece of Hepatitis B virus.
The combination Hepatitis A/B vaccine is routinely recommended for those at high risk for acquiring infections such as:
- Health care personnel
- Laboratory workers who handle blood and patient specimens
- Police, fire and emergency medical personnel who give first aid treatment
- Dialysis patients
- Household and intimate contacts of those with chronic Hepatitis B or active Hepatitis A
- Persons with multiple sex partners
- Men who have sex with men
- Sex workers
- Injection drug users
- Those traveling to high-risk areas
To prevent a worsening of their condition and save them the time of two vaccination series, those already living with chronic Hepatitis C are also prime candidates for the Hepatitis A/B combination vaccine.
While many receiving the Hepatitis A/B combination vaccine do not experience serious side effects, the most common problems include:
- soreness at the injection site
In addition, the combination vaccine is contraindicated in those with:
- a known hypersensitivity to neomycin
- a known hypersensitivity to yeast
Another consideration for the combination Hepatitis A/B vaccine is someone’s immune system strength. Vaccines work by bringing a tiny amount of infection into the body to stimulate an antibody response against it. Unfortunately, those with a weakened immune system (such as those with HIV) may not be able to illicit an antibody response strong enough to create immunity. While this is a concern for the Hepatitis A/B combination vaccine, new research has shown that administering a double dose greatly increases its efficacy for immune-compromised individuals.
Although medications free of flaws are virtually non-existent, the combination Hepatitis A/B vaccine is a blessing for those with chronic Hepatitis C. Especially if never vaccinated for either Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B AND diagnosed with Hepatitis C, the Hepatitis A/B combination vaccine saves the time and inconvenience of two separate vaccination schedules for preventing multiple hepatitis infections.
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