Avaxim (Hepatitis A vaccine)

How does it work?

Avaxim is a hepatitis A vaccine that contains inactivated hepatitis A virus. It works by provoking the body's immune response to this virus, without causing the disease.

When the body is exposed to foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, the immune system produces antibodies against them. Antibodies help the body recognise and kill the foreign organisms. The antibodies remain in the body to help protect the body against future infections with the same organism. This is known as active immunity.

The immune system produces different antibodies for each foreign organism it encounters. This establishes a pool of antibodies that helps protect the body from various different diseases.

Vaccines contain extracts or inactivated forms of bacteria or viruses that cause disease. These altered forms of the organisms stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against them, but don't actually cause disease themselves. The antibodies produced remain in the body so that if the organism is encountered naturally, the immune system can recognise it and attack it. This prevents it from causing disease.

Each bacteria or virus stimulates the immune system to produce a specific type of antibody, and this means that different vaccines are needed to prevent different diseases.

The hepatitis A vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies against the hepatitis A virus and is given to prevent hepatitis A.

This vaccine is not given routinely. It is recommended for people who are at high risk of contracting hepatitis A, such as travellers to high risk areas; laboratory staff who work directly with the virus; people with haemophilia treated with plasma-derived clotting factors; people with severe liver disease; people who are at risk due to their sexual behaviour; workers at risk of exposure to untreated sewage; people who work with primates; staff and residents of homes for those with severe learning difficulties and intravenous drug abusers. The vaccine may also be considered for close contacts of people with hepatitis A and people with chronic liver disease.

The vaccine is given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm. Protection against hepatitis A does not occur immediately following vaccination with Avaxim, but over 90 per cent of people will have protective levels of antibodies after two weeks.

Some vaccines remain effective for a lifetime, while others have to be updated after a few months or years. Avaxim should provide continuing protection against hepatitis A for up to 36 months after the first dose. To provide continued long-term protection, a second 'booster' dose should be given, preferably between 6 and 12 months after the first vaccination, but it may be given up to 36 months after the first vaccination. This should produce immunity for at least 10 years.

What is it used for?

  • Preventing hepatitis A in adults and adolescents aged 16 years and over.


  • This vaccine only provides protection against hepatitis caused by the hepatitis A virus. It will not prevent other forms of hepatitis.
  • People who have an underactive immune system (for example due to a genetic defect, disease such as HIV infection, or treatment with immunosuppressant medicines such as chemotherapy, high-dose corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants, eg to prevent rejection of organ transplants), may not produce enough antibodies in response to this vaccine. If you fall into one of these categories, your doctor may want you to have a blood test after your injection in order to check the levels of antibodies in your blood. You may need to have additional doses of the vaccine to make sure you produce enough antibodies to protect you from the diseases.

Not to be used in

  • Sudden feverish illness (the vaccine should be postponed until after recovery).
  • People who are allergic to the antibiotic neomycin.
  • Children aged 15 years or younger (other hepatitis A vaccines are available for this age group - see end of factsheet).

This vaccine should not be used if you are allergic to one or any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction after having this vaccine inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

Use with caution in

  • Liver disease.
  • People at risk of bleeding following an injection into the muscle, eg people with haemophilia or low levels of platelets in their blood (thrombocytopenia) - these people may be be given the injection under the skin rather than into the muscle.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Certain vaccines should not be given during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other vaccines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before having any vaccine.

  • The safety of giving this vaccine to women who are pregnant has not been specifically studied. However, since it contains inactivated virus it is not expected to be harmful. It should be used with caution, and only if the expected benefit to the mother outweighs any potential risk to the baby. Ask your doctor for advice before having this vaccine if you are, or think you might be pregnant.
  • The effect of this vaccine during breastfeeding has not been studied. The manufacturer states that it is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding. However, based on the effects of other inactivated (non-infectious) viral vaccines given during breastfeeding, there do not seem to be any reasons for not giving the vaccine to breastfeeding women who are at risk of hepatitis A. Seek medical advice from your doctor.

Side effects

Vaccines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this vaccine. Just because a side effect is stated here does not mean that all people having this vaccine will experience that or any side effect.

This vaccine contains no live virus and so cannot cause hepatitis A.

Very common (affect more than 1 in 10 people)

  • Soreness at injection site.
  • Weakness or loss of strength (asthenia).

Common (affect between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 people)

  • Headache.
  • Disturbances of the gut such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Pain in the muscles (myalgia).
  • Pain in the joints (arthralgia).
  • Fever.

Uncommon (affect between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 people)

  • Redness around injection site.

Rare (affect between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 10,000 people)

  • Nodule at injection site.

Very rare

  • Skin reactions such as rash, itching or hives.

The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the vaccine's manufacturer.For more information about any other possible risks associated with this vaccine, please read the information provided with the vaccine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

How can this vaccine affect other medicines?

This vaccine is not known to affect any other medicines.

However, people taking medicines that suppress the activity of the immune system, for example chemotherapy, high-dose corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants, eg used following an organ transplant, may not produce adequate numbers of antibodies in response to this vaccine. As a result, the vaccine may be less effective in these people. If you are taking any of these medicines you should discuss this with your doctor. You may need an extra dose of the vaccine.

This vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines, but if so, the other vaccines should be administered into separate sites and preferably into separate limbs.

Other hepatitis A vaccines

Epaxal Havrix junior monodose Havrix monodose
Vaqta paediatric