You can protect yourself against the viruses hepatitis A and B by vaccination. Here you will find all the information about risk groups, the course of the vaccine, possible side effects and costs incurred, which are often taken over by the health insurance companies.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis A and B are liver diseases that can cause long-term damage to the body. Hepatitis B is the "more dangerous" of the two variants. The virus infection is one of the most prevalent in the world and can completely destroy the liver in a chronic disease course.
The pathogen can enter the organism via blood or other body fluids. The virus can no longer be completely removed from the body, which is why vaccination is the most important and best preventive measure against hepatitis B.
Hepatitis A is usually less damaging than hepatitis B, causing the liver usually no lasting damage from the disease. However, hepatitis A does not break out within 15 to 55 days. So unconscious contagion from other people is very likely. Hepatitis A is transmitted via contact and smear infection.
Vaccination against hepatitis
The hepatitis vaccinations are usually given as basic immunizations and can then be renewed every ten years if necessary. It is even assumed that the protection lasts at least ten to twelve years and a refresh after the primary immunization without increased exposure risk is not necessary.
A combination vaccination against hepatitis A and B is possible in Germany. But it can also be vaccinated separately against both diseases.
In this case, a so-called dead vaccine is injected. This is called because the virus is only partially available and therefore can no longer be transmitted. The antibodies are nevertheless formed in the body. The vaccinations are usually given by a doctor.
When is a hepatitis B vaccine necessary?
Above all, risk groups should be vaccinated. Whether or not a hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for you depends on whether one or more of the following applies to you:
- You may be in contact with blood or other bodily fluids, such as health care workers, nurses, social workers, police or prison staff.
- You have professionally or privately contact with people infected with hepatitis, also in the wider circle of acquaintances (for example, kindergarten, sports club) or live or work in a shared accommodation (for example, nursing home, psychiatry, prison).
- You have an immune deficiency.
- You are HIV positive.
- There is an increased risk of infection from sexual behavior, for example frequently changing sexual partners.
- You are a drug user.
- As a child, you have not experienced any primary immunization for hepatitis B.
- They are in the near future abroad: risk areas include Australia, Central Africa and Southeast Asia.
Newborns in Germany have been primed for hepatitis B since 1995. The effect of the vaccine continues into adulthood and can be refreshed every ten years if necessary.
Hepatitis A: risk groups
A hepatitis A vaccine is recommended if you belong to one of the following risk groups:
- You already have a chronic liver disease.
- They are regularly injected with blood or blood components.
- Due to your sexual behavior you are at an increased risk of infection.
- They live in a facility for people with behavioral problems or cerebral damage, for example in a psychiatric facility.
- They work in the health service (including laboratory work) or in a community facility (such as day-care centers, sheltered workshops, etc.).
- You have contact with sewage, for example in a sewage treatment plant or in sewerage.
- They are planning a trip to an endangered region: Middle East, Turkey and Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean are considered risk areas.
How does the vaccination work?
In combination vaccination against hepatitis A and B three vaccinations are usually required to receive the full vaccine protection. The first vaccination will be performed approximately four weeks before the second vaccination and six months before the third vaccination. After the second vaccination, the antibodies form. The third time, at least ten to twelve years of protection is achieved.
About four to eight weeks after the last vaccination, the blood is examined. If antibodies are found, the hepatitis vaccine has proceeded according to plan. If there are no or too few antibodies in the body, it must be vaccinated for the fourth time.
Of course, both vaccinations can be done separately. For hepatitis A vaccination, you only need two vaccinations to be primed.
Non- and low-responders in hepatitis vaccination
The success or formation of antibodies in hepatitis vaccination may depend on age, sex, pre-existing disease, or other factors such as genetics.
About five percent of all vaccinated individuals produce no or too few antibodies after vaccination. These people are then called non-responders or low-responders. In the case of the latter, it is recommended to vaccinate up to three times every four to eight weeks, and non-responders have various strategies discussed.
Vaccination in infants
The hepatitis B vaccine is usually injected in infancy or infancy. The vaccine requires four sessions. According to the Joint Federal Committee's Vaccination Guidelines on Vaccination, babies are vaccinated against hepatitis B at the age of two, three, four, and eleven to 14 months.
Are there side effects from the vaccine?
In most cases, the injection takes place in the muscle of the upper arm. The vaccine is considered well tolerated. Side effects such as gastrointestinal problems, tiredness and redness and swelling at the injection site are possible until two days after the vaccination.
How much does the hepatitis vaccine cost?
Per hepatitis A vaccine is expected to be about 50, - to 65, - €. In a primary immunization with two injections that is about 100, - to 130, - Euro.
A hepatitis B vaccine is a bit more expensive with 50, - to 70, - Euro per injection. A basic immunization with three vaccinations (one adult) costs about 150, - to 210, - Euro. Since most adults have already been vaccinated against hepatitis B as a child, only a booster dose is usually calculated here.
In a combined vaccination against both forms of hepatitis (A and B) are about 180, - to pay € 240, - for the primary vaccination.
Depending on the doctor's practice, there are fees for counseling and the doctor's or nurse's fee. Here you should expect about 40 euros.
Who pays the vaccine?
Basically, it can be said that in children under 18 years, the hepatitis B vaccine paid by all statutory health insurance and is strongly recommended. Depending on the situation (eg stay abroad, contact with risk group etc.), the hepatitis A vaccination in children will be borne by the health insurance.
The vaccinations against the hepatitis virus are handled in adults as indication vaccines. This means that the hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended for certain risk groups and under certain conditions and are paid for by the health insurance company. If you do not belong to such a risk group, you have to pay for the vaccine yourself.
If the hepatitis vaccine is to be carried out as a travel vaccination, the health insurance company decides in individual cases whether there is a risk and the costs are thus borne.
Reimbursement by the employer
However, there is also the possibility that the employer pays the vaccine if there is a higher likelihood of getting in contact with the pathogen. This is the case in all occupations that come into contact with body fluids, such as nurses, lab technicians, sewage workers, pathologists. Here the employer can pay for the hepatitis A and / or B vaccine.
If you are not sure about your professional and private situation, if and to which risk group you belong, then in any case ask your health insurance company and your employer afterwards, if a reimbursement of costs is for you.