British researchers suggest booster vaccinations for hepatitis A may not really be necessary. Studies done indicate people who receive the HAV vaccine develop immune memory of the virus long after detectable levels of antibodies to the virus can been measured.
Hepatitis A is common around the world, with about 1.4 million new cases identified each year. The incidence of the disease is lowest in developed countries, where vaccination programs have been in place for 10 years.
Vaccination could also protect people in less developed countries, but many are not receiving the shots, which are usually given in three doses. Now that researchers have been able to study the vaccine for a decade, they're finding people with healthy immune systems continue to have protective antibodies. What's more, these individuals also develop underlying immune memory, which is likely to provide continued protection, suggesting there may be no need for booster shots. Some studies have even shown one dose of the initial vaccine may be sufficient to protect people long term.
The findings hold important implications for public health in under-developed countries, where a single course of vaccination would make it easier to protect more people.
Researchers say If HAV booster vaccinations are not needed ... then universal vaccination of children living in areas of intermediate endemicity might prove more attractive. Not only will this strategy provide long-term protection against hepatitis A extending into adulthood but also it will result in substantial cost-savings through lower vaccination costs.