A review of the long-term protection after hepatitis A and B vaccination

Travel Med Infect Dis. 2007 Mar;5(2):79-84. doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2006.04.004. Epub 2006 Jun 19.


Vaccine-preventable viral hepatitis continues to be a cause of considerable morbidity and mortality: on worldwide basis, approximately 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A are reported every year. The true incidence, however, has been estimated to be 3-10 times higher. Regarding hepatitis B, more than a third of the world's population has been infected. The World Health Organization has estimated (2000) that there are 367 million chronic carriers of hepatitis B worldwide, and approximately 1 million deaths per year as a consequence of chronic complications and acute fulminant disease. Hepatitis B vaccines have been licensed since 1982, and hepatitis A vaccines since 1992. In 1996, a combined hepatitis A and B vaccine became available. An update on the long-term protection conferred by hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines as well as the combined hepatitis A and B vaccine is offered in this paper. Long-term efficacy and booster policy for hepatitis B vaccines have often been a topic of discussion. Based on current data and field experience there is, in general, no necessity for booster doses for fully vaccinated immunocompetent individuals. Long-term protection has been demonstrated by the rapid (5-7 days) development of anamnestic antibody responses among vaccinees who no longer have detectable anti-HBs. Anamnestic responses correlate with lymphoproliferative T-cell responses following challenge with hepatitis B vaccine. Furthermore, employing Spot-ELISA techniques, circulating B-cells were shown to be able to produce anti-HBs in vaccinees who lost their detectable antibodies. The accumulated data from a large number of studies indicate that despite antibody decline or loss, immune memory exhibits long-term persistence. There is somewhat less information available for hepatitis A vaccines, yet an increasing number of studies indicate that the findings for hepatitis B vaccines are also applicable to hepatitis A vaccines. The necessity to provide a booster dose was based on early projections of observed antibody levels. However, recent follow-up studies with up to 12 year observation, as well as studies employing mathematical models predict that following primary vaccination, antibodies will persist for at least 25 years. In addition, experimental studies confirm that vaccination against hepatitis A induces immunological memory. Therefore hepatitis A booster vaccination is presently considered as unnecessary in fully vaccinated individuals. The above findings are of importance in the context of administering combined hepatitis A and B vaccine for which similar long-term data have been observed. All available data on monovalent and combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines indicates that there is no support for a hepatitis A or hepatitis B booster when a complete primary vaccination course is offered to immunocompetent individuals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hepatitis A / immunology
  • Hepatitis A / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis A Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Hepatitis B / immunology
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Schedule
  • Immunization, Secondary*


  • Hepatitis A Vaccines
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines