Vaccinations

Key points

  • If you have been diagnosed with liver disease, there are some vaccinations you need
  • Vaccinations will help prevent further damage to your liver by protecting you from other illnesses
  • Everyone’s medical history is different. It’s best to discuss with your doctor which vaccinations are best for you

Hepatitis A vaccine

This vaccine will protect you from the hepatitis A virus. It’s recommended for:

  • everyone with chronic liver disease
  • people who have had a liver transplant
  • people with chronic hepatitis B
  • people with chronic hepatitis C
  • people who are travelling to countries with risk of hepatitis A exposure
  • people working in jobs with increased risk for exposure to hepatitis A
  • people whose lifestyle increases their risk of catching hepatitis A

You need at least 2 doses, 6 months apart. It’s best to have it as soon as possible after you’re diagnosed with liver disease. You will need to pay for your hepatitis A vaccines although they may be free through sexual health clinics and some other services.


Hepatitis B vaccine

This vaccine will protect you from the hepatitis B virus.

It’s recommended for people with chronic liver disease and/or hepatitis C, unless you are already immune to hepatitis B.

This is because people with these liver conditions are at more risk of catching hepatitis B. If they do catch hepatitis B, they are at more risk of developing severe liver disease.

Hepatitis B vaccination is also recommended for people who have a weakened immune system or are at risk of catching hepatitis B because of their job or their lifestyle.

You need 3 doses of this vaccine.

You will need to pay for your hepatitis B vaccines, although they may be free through sexual health clinics and some other services.


Combined hepatitis A / hepatitis B vaccine

You can be vaccinated against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B at the same time. This vaccine is appropriate for people with chronic liver disease if they are not immune to either hepatitis A or hepatitis B.


COVID-19

People with liver disease are just as likely to get infected with COVID-19 as anyone else. Some conditions that can make COVID-19 more serious are also common in people with liver disease. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

If you have advanced liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis or if you have had a liver transplant, it is really important to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.

This vaccine is free.


Influenza

The influenza vaccine (flu shot) will protect you from catching the flu. The flu can be very serious for some people.

This vaccine is recommended for everyone with chronic liver disease and for everyone who has received a transplant. This is because these people are at higher risk of flu or severe illness from flu. It is also recommended for small children, adults over 65 years of age, and many other people in the community.

There’s a new influenza vaccine every year. You need 1 dose – but if you’ve had a liver transplant you’ll need 2 doses.

You should talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot. It can be given at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccination.

This vaccine may be free for certain people at high risk if they get infected with the flu, and is provided through many workplaces.


Pneumococcal

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria. It can make you seriously ill, for example with meningitis, pneumonia or middle ear infection.

The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for people with chronic liver disease, including chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and biliary atresia.

There are different vaccines for pneumococcal. The dose will depend on which type of vaccine you have.

This vaccine is free for eligible people with certain medical conditions.


Shingles

Shingles is a painful rash that happens when the chickenpox virus reactivates if your immune system is weakened or as you get older.

Shingles vaccination can protect you against serious disease. It is recommended for adults aged 60 and older, and people aged 50 and over if they live with someone with a weakened immune system.

There are 2 types of Shingles Vaccine

  • Zostavax is a live vaccine that is available for free for people aged 70 (or 71-79 if they haven’t had it). It can’t be given to people with a weakened immune system.
  • Shingrix is a non-live vaccine and can be given to people with a weakened immune system. It is not available for free.

Travel vaccines

If you have liver disease and you are planning to travel, it’s important to take extra care you don’t get sick. That’s because some illnesses you catch overseas can affect your liver too.

Before you go overseas, check with your doctor you’re up to date with vaccines for:

  • Yellow Fever (this is a live vaccine and cannot be given to people with a weakened immune system)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough

Other vaccines may be recommended depending on where you are travelling to.

 

References

Australian Immunisation Handbook. Recommendations. People with chronic liver disease of any aetiology are recommended to receive hepatitis A vaccine.

Australian Immunisation Handbook. Influenza (flu)

Australian Immunisation Handbook. Pneumococcal disease

Reviewed November 2022

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