a new, safe, highly immunogenic and probably long term effective inactivated hepatitis a virus vaccine has been licensed for clinical use. clinical trials in developed countries have demonstrated its efficacy in preventing hepatitis a in high risk groups, such as travelers to regions where hav infection is endemic and day care children and staff, its efficacy in postexposure conditions and in community outbreaks. the authors review the basic and changing features of the disease and its epidemiology in especific geographical regions trying to elucidate its use in the control of the disease in developing countries, especially in brazil. taking in consideration its efficacy, safety and immunogenicity, the inactivated hepatitis a vaccine may be of extreme value in terms of individual protection. because this vaccine is so new, there are no formal recomendations for its use in developing countries, and appropriate public health use of hepatitis a vaccine requires up-to-date epidemiological information.