There is emerging evidence for an under-recognized hepatitis E virus (HEV) as a human pathogen. Among different reasons for this neglect are the unsatisfactory performance and under-utilization of commercial HEV diagnostic kits; for instance, the number of anti-HEV IgM kits marketed in China is about one-fifth of that of hepatitis A kits. Over the last two decades, substantial progress has been achieved in furthering our knowledge on the HEV-specific immune responses, antigenic features of HEV virions, and development of serological assays and more recently prophylactic vaccines. This review will focus on presenting the evidence of the importance of HEV infection for certain cohorts such as pregnant women, the key antigenic determinants of the virus, and immunogenicity and clinical efficacy conferred by a newly developed prophylactic vaccine. Robust immunogenicity, greater than 195-fold and approximately 50-fold increase of anti-HEV IgG level in seronegative and seropositive vaccinees, respectively, as well as impressive clinical efficacy of this vaccine was demonstrated. The protection rate against the hepatitis E disease and the virus infection was shown to be 100 % (95 % CI 75–100) and 78 % (95 % CI 66–86), respectively.