Which Vaccines Do I Need to Travel?

Reviewed on 7/7/2021
vaccines you need to travel
If you are planning to travel to another country, it’s important to plan ahead to get the required vaccinations

Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against infectious diseases when you’re traveling internationally. Some diseases are more common in other parts of the world, so it’s important to be updated with your immunization schedule and complete your booster doses if you have missed taking them.

There are three types of vaccines you need in order to travel:

1. Routine vaccines

Routine vaccinations are the ones you normally get during your childhood pediatrician visits and which protect you against the following diseases:

2. Recommended vaccines

Recommended vaccinations include the list of all the vaccines that protect international travelers from diseases that occur commonly in other parts of the world. Not all vaccines are recommended for everyone, however. Your doctor will determine which vaccines you need after considering a few factors including:

  • Your destination
  • Whether you will be spending time in rural areas
  • Season of the year you are traveling
  • Your age and overall health
  • Your immunization history

You can find the entire list of vaccines specific to the country you are traveling to on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Some recommended vaccines include:

  • Rabies vaccine: Rabies spreads from dogs to humans. You may need a vaccine for it if you travel to parts of Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
  • Vaccine for typhoid fever: This disease spreads through contaminated water and food. It is more common in South Asia, especially India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. 
  • Vaccine for Japanese encephalitis: This condition spreads via mosquito bites. You may need a shot of this vaccine if you are traveling to Asian countries or western Pacific regions.

3. Required (or mandatory) vaccines

Before entering some countries, you will need to provide your vaccination status for certain illnesses. For example: 

  • South Africa requires a valid International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP), documenting yellow fever vaccination. 
  • Saudi Arabia has made it mandatory for people seeking Hajj entry visas to get vaccinated for yellow fever and meningococcal meningitis.

When should I get vaccinated before traveling?

If you are planning to travel, you should visit your health care provider at least 4-6 weeks before your trip. This is because many vaccines need to be completed in several rounds, each separated by a specified interval of several days or weeks. Visiting several weeks before the trip ensures that you complete all doses and develop enough immunity.

Keep in mind that your doctor may not stock travel vaccines, so you may need to wait until they order one for you. You can visit a travel clinic instead. To find one near you, go to the travel clinic locator on the Traveler's Health section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are visiting many countries in one trip, it is recommended to consult a travel medicine specialist.

Can I get travel vaccines in a country outside the U.S.?

The CDC does not recommend that you get vaccinated in another country you travel to because of the following reasons:

  • Most vaccines need to be administered well before entering another country to provide you with full protection against diseases.
  • Vaccines available in other countries may be less effective or different from the ones used in the U.S.

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References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traveler’s Health: Travel Vaccines. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travel-vaccines

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chapter 2: Yellow Fever Vaccine Requirements and Recommendations by Country. In CDC Travelers Health Yellow Book. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/preparing-international-travelers/yellow-fever-vaccine-and-malaria-prophylaxis-information-by-country

The Embassy of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hajj and Umrah Health Requirements. https://www.saudiembassy.net/hajj-and-umrah-health-requirements

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