Updated
August 21st, 2019

Tennessee Offers Free Hepatitis A Vaccines To At-Risk People

Tennessee hepatitis A outbreak surpasses 2,200 people

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The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) announced local health departments are offering free hepatitis A vaccines for people in 'high-risk groups.'

The groups of people most at risk for the hepatitis A virus include people who use recreational drugs, men who have sex with men and people experiencing homelessness, said the TDH on August 20, 2019.

This action is in response to more than 2,200 cases of hepatitis A including 13 related fatalities confirmed in Tennessee since this outbreak began in 2017.

Moreover, 61 percent of the 2,200 hepatitis A cases have resulted in hospitalizations, which generate treatment costs over $10,000 for each patient.

TDH Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP, said in a press release, “The Tennessee Department of Health, metro health departments, jails and many other community partners are working every day to ensure people at high risk of infection with the hep A virus are vaccinated to prevent more illness and save lives.”

“It’s critical for people in these high-risk groups to receive the hepatitis A vaccine to protect themselves and others around them,” said Tennessee Immunization Program Medical Director Michelle Fiscus, MD, FAAP. 

“We know this vaccine is safe and effective.”

Additionally, food-service workers have been identified as the source for numerous hepatitis A outbreaks during 2019. In Missouri, Franklin County recently joined the shortlist of counties requiring hepatitis A vaccines for restaurant workers.

The Missouri ordinance requires vaccines for all restaurant workers and anyone involved in food preparation. It covers hospital cafeterias, school kitchens, daycare facilities, nursing homes, catering businesses, and mobile food outlets.

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There are 3 HAV vaccines approved in the USA: Vaqta, Havrix, and Twinrix, which are available at pharmacies in most states.

Vaccination is recommended for all children starting at 1 year of age, for travelers to certain countries and for people at high risk for infection, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Furthermore, immune globulin can provide short-term protection against hepatitis A, both pre- and post-exposure.

The exact duration of protection after vaccination is unknown. Anti-HAV has been shown to persist for at least 20 years in adults administered inactivated vaccine as children with the three-dose schedule, and anti-HAV persistence of at least 20 years also was demonstrated among persons vaccinated with a two-dose schedule as adults, says the CDC.

Other steps to prevent infection with hepatitis A include washing hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating and before preparing or serving food.

Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by a virus. It can be transmitted through contact with feces or consumption of contaminated food or water. Contact your healthcare provider or the local health department for more information at Tennessee Department of Health.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee.