Some parents feel the hepatitis A vaccine is one their child can skip. Children infected with the hepatitis A virus (HAV) often have symptoms so mild they aren’t even noticeable. Do they really need the shot?
We think so, and here’s why.
Let’s say Macey is a second-grader who’s not immunized against HAV. Consequently, she gets infected from tainted salad at a local restaurant.
Having no symptoms, Macey goes to school and exposes classmates to HAV through lack of proper handwashing in the restroom. (Those who do experience symptoms may get a fever, nausea, diarrhea, and severe stomach pains for up to a month.)
If anyone in her life has chronic hepatitis B or C, and is not immunized against HAV, they’re at risk of fatal consequences. People with compromised immune systems and other liver diseases are also at risk.
If Macey doesn’t get the hepatitis A vaccine and does not get the disease as a child, she’s at risk of contracting the disease later. Adults infected with HAV generally experience more severe symptoms. One in five people infected with hepatitis A require hospitalization, and some are sick for up to six months.
In 2003, an outbreak at a restaurant in Pennsylvania sickened 660 people and killed four. The disease may be mild, but it’s no party.
Parents should check with their providers to see if vaccination is right for their family.