What you need to know before you get any vaccines...
The incidence of infectious diseases that are preventable by vaccines and/or other methods of intervention are generally higher in foreign countries than in the United States. As a result, U.S. citizens face a significant risk when they travel and are exposed to these diseases.
Requirements and recommendations for the use of vaccines and/or other preventive measures are based upon factors that take into consideration information from a variety of sources.
International Health Regulations (IHR)
Individual requirements/recommendations by country
Itinerary and sequence of travel by country
Risk of disease in any particular country
Personal health history
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers comprehensive information on vaccines and personal health protection measures for travelers to any part of the world. You may contact CDC through any one of the following services:
Toll-Free CDC Travelers' Hotline: (877) 394-8747 or (877-FYI-TRIP)
The only vaccine required by International Health Regulations is yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Meningococcal vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the Hajj.
Yellow fever vaccination is documented in the INTERNATIONAL CERTIFICATE OF VACCINATION. The form must be presented at certain international border crossings as proof of yellow fever vaccination. Documentation of Yellow Fever Vaccine must be validated by the local health authority or by the administering physician/clinic who possesses a “Uniform Stamp.”
Smallpox vaccine is not recommended for international travelers.
No cholera vaccine is available in the United States. Two oral vaccines are available outside the United States: Dukoral (Crucell, the Netherlands) and Shanchol (Shantha Biotechnics, India)/mORCVAX (Vabiotech, Vietnam). CDC does not recommend these vaccines for most travelers because of the low risk of cholera to US travelers.
Most governments will permit an unvaccinated traveler to proceed if he/she carries a signed statement by a physician of the medical reason for not being immunized. Such statements should be certified by the local health authority. However, some countries may quarantine unvaccinated persons or place them under surveillance.
What other vaccines are recommended for travel?
Routine vaccinations are recommended according to your age group. Be sure that you are up-to-date with routine vaccines such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (Tdap) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc. Specific vaccines are required and/or recommended for travel, depending on countries/regions you are planning to visit. Please check with your health care provider and visit the CDC Traveler’s Health website for specific recommendations. Following is a list of some vaccines to consider:
Hepatitis A – All susceptible people traveling for any purpose, frequency, or duration to countries with high or intermediate hepatitis A endemicity should be vaccinated or receive immunoglobulin (IG) before departure. Routinely given to children beginning at age 1 year. Generally recommended for most foreign travel, including Europe.
Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B vaccination should be administered to all unvaccinated people traveling to areas with intermediate or high prevalence of chronic hepatitis B. All unvaccinated children and adolescents (aged <19 years) should receive hepatitis B vaccine.
Influenza (Flu) – Any traveler who wants to reduce the risk for influenza infection should consider influenza vaccination, preferably ≥2 weeks before departure.
Measles, mumps, and rubella –Measles is widespread in places like Europe, Africa, Asia, India, and the Philippines. Protection against measles is especially important for people planning foreign travel, including adolescents and adults who have not had measles and have not been adequately vaccinated, and infants aged 6–11 months.
Meningococcal – For travelers, vaccination is especially recommended for those visiting the parts of sub-Saharan Africa known as the “meningitis belt” during the dry season (December–June). Vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia for all travelers to Mecca during the annual Hajj. Advisories for travelers to other countries are issued when epidemics of meningococcal disease, caused by vaccine-preventable serogroups, are detected.
Polio – IPV is recommended for travelers to areas or countries where polio is epidemic or endemic.
Typhoid – CDC recommends typhoid vaccine for travelers to areas where there is an increased risk of exposure to S.Typhi. Risk is highest for travelers to developing countries who have prolonged exposure to potentially contaminated food and drink. Not generally recommended for travelers who stay at the usual tourist accommodations in Mexico. Recommended for travelers who will be visiting in rural areas of Mexico and Central America. Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in the Caribbean.
Varicella (Chicken pox) – Adults who might be at increased risk for exposure or transmission and who do not have evidence of immunity should receive special consideration for vaccination, which includes international travelers.
Malaria – A vaccine does not exist. Malaria prevention consists of a combination of mosquito avoidance measures and preventive medications. Oral medications are available for the usual types of malaria and for drug-resistant strains. The most common medications prescribed are Mefloquine (Lariam), Atovaquone/Proguanil (Malarone) and Chloroquine. Dosage and duration varies with each type of medication. NOTE: To obtain a malaria consult/prescription, a separate appointment must be made with our clinic physician.
Rabies – Rabies vaccination is only recommended for certain travelers, including: travelers with significant occupational risks, such as veterinarians, long-term travelers and expatriates living in areas that pose a high risk for exposure and travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats, stray dogs and cats, wildlife, and other mammals. Such travelers include wildlife professionals, researchers, veterinarians, or adventure travelers visiting areas where bats, wildlife, and other mammals are commonly found.
Yellow fever – People aged ≥9 months who are traveling to or living in areas at risk for yellow fever virus transmission in South America and Africa. In addition, some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination for entry
Japanese B Encephalitis (JE) – Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for travelers who plan to spend ≥1 month in endemic areas during the JEV transmission season. Vaccination should be considered for: short-term (<1 month) travelers to endemic areas during the JEV transmission season, travelers to an area with an ongoing JEV outbreak, and travelers to endemic areas who are uncertain of specific destinations, activities, or duration of travel. Note: This vaccine is not available in the Travel Clinic.
Should other precautions be taken?
Immunizations provide only partial protection against certain diseases. Travelers must protect themselves by being selective with food, drink, and lodging, and by minimizing the potential for exposure to infectious diseases (for example, protecting against mosquito bites).
How soon should the vaccines be given?
Immunizations provide protection for periods of a few months to many years, depending on the type of vaccine. It is essential for every traveler to plan ahead.
It takes 2-3 weeks for the body to build up an adequate level of immunity following receipt of the first dose of a vaccine.
Some shots are given in a series that requires more than one injection several days to weeks apart.
Certain vaccines cannot be given at the same time that some medicines are being taken.
Have a pleasant trip and be careful!REMEMBER: Injuries due to accidents are the leading cause of disability for travelers.