Hepatitis A shortage in the UK

12 Oct 2017

Hepatitis A shortages in the UK

There is currently a shortage of Hepatitis A vaccine in the United Kingdom and across the world. At present, some vaccines are not available or may be reserved for special at-risk groups.

Because of this shortage, Public Health England have issued new temporary clinical guidelines to healthcare staff across the UK

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hepatitis-a-infection-prevention-and-control-guidance.

The guidance aims to preserve the small amounts of Hepatitis A vaccine stocks left, by using doses sparingly for those who are at highest risk and following this guidance.

Certain travellers are at increased risk of acquiring Hepatitis A, including:

  • those who are staying with or visiting the local population
  • frequent and/or long-stay travellers to areas where sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor
  • those with existing medical conditions such as liver disease or haemophilia
  • men who have sex with men
  • people who inject drugs
  • those who may be exposed to the virus through their work
  • those going to areas of hepatitis A outbreaks who have limited access to safe water and medical care

Because of this new temporary guidance, Hepatitis A vaccination will no longer be recommended for many travellers visiting a number of countries.

When you visit our clinics, the nurse/doctor will carry out a travel risk assessment with you and go through all the vaccines that are recommended for your trip, including whether Hepatitis A is recommended. 

We cannot offer this service over the telephone or by email.

A £20 appointment fee per person is charged if no vaccines/malaria tablets are bought on the day. This fee is waived if vaccines/malaria tablets are bought on the day.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a virus that is usually transmitted through contaminated food and water, or direct contact with an infectious person. Hepatitis A is rare in the UK with most cases occurring in travellers who have recently visited countries where the disease is common.

Symptoms are often mild or absent in young children, but the disease becomes more serious with advancing age. Recovery can vary from weeks to months. Following Hepatitis A illness, immunity is lifelong. Symptoms include: fever, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), malaise and nausea.

As the most common mode of infection in travellers is consumption of contaminated food or water. The risk of acquiring Hepatitis A can be reduced by ensuring good personal hygiene and following advice on food and water precautions.