Valuable information on Travel Vaccination

Heading out of the country? It’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see if you need any vaccines or booster shots before you leave. You are so looking forward to the vacation, focused on what to see, what to pack, that vaccinations are often not taken into consideration.

Of course, you’ll want to be up to date on all the usual vaccines you should get for everyday life in the U.S. and Canada. Those diseases are also in other countries, so if you protect yourself at home, you shouldn’t get them when you’re away.

Finding out what vaccinations and immunizations you need before you travel to any corner of the world is an important part of planning your trip. Beyond popping the requisite dose of multivitamins and packing a tube of hand sanitizer before boarding a plane, travelers must receive the travel immunizations that are required or recommended for entering certain countries.

This article will help you find out what shots you need to get, where to get them, and which ones come highly recommended so you can stay healthy while on vacation.

Planning Your Vaccination Schedule

Your regular doctor probably won’t be able to give you all the vaccinations you need, so you should contact your nearest travel clinic for an appointment. It is important that you visit a travel clinic at least 6 to 8 weeks before you leave on a trip since most vaccines can take as many as 4-6 weeks for vaccines to take full effect, and some may involve more than one shot.  There is a charge for travel vaccines. Bring a record of all vaccines you have received in the past to the travel clinic. It is especially important to keep a record of the travel vaccines you receive and take this with you on your trip.

Which Travel Vaccines Do You Need?

The Centers for Disease Control maintains a list of recommended and required vaccines or immunizations for all countries. In general, European countries expect American travelers to be immunized in keeping with the U.S. or Canadian schedule and no additional vaccinations are required. Measles and polio are of particular concern in Eastern Europe, so be sure you’re up to date on those vaccines. If you are traveling to Europe after visiting a country where yellow fever is present, carry proof of yellow fever vaccination.

Yellow fever is the only immunization that the International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization require for travelers. Yellow fever is typically transmitted through mosquito bites in warmer climates; if you’re taking a trip to sub-Saharan Africa or certain countries in South America, you will have to get a yellow fever vaccination.

Other vaccinations are recommended — you can technically leave the country without having had any of these vaccinations (although it might not be the best idea!). Here’s a sample of some of the vaccinations that may be recommended if you head overseas:

Hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended for travel to certain countries in Europe (such as Spain, Portugal and Eastern Europe), Asia, Africa and South America. The CDC also recommends this vaccination for travel to northern destinations such as Alaska, Greenland and Russia.

Rabies vaccinations are recommended for travelers who will be exploring caves or spending a lot of time outdoors or in rural areas.

Hepatitis A vaccinations are recommended for people visiting developing countries in regions such as Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, the South Pacific, and South and Central America.

Typhoid is a particular risk for travelers to South Asia, as well as those visiting other nations in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Although no vaccine exists for malaria, travelers to Central or South America, Africa, parts of Asia, or the South Pacific should look into taking the appropriate preventative drug regimen, Chemoprophylaxis. This anti-malaria treatment is not 100 percent effective and travelers should go over their itineraries with their doctors before starting Chemoprophylaxis, which can have unpleasant side effects.

Here are some of the most common vaccination and booster requirements:

Tetanus/Diphtheria: Booster every 10 years.
Measles/Mumps/Rubella: If born after 1957, one dose of each; if given after 1967, the vaccination is good for life.
Polio: If immunized, get a booster before traveling abroad.
Yellow Fever: Immunization valid for 10 years.

If you cannot receive a required vaccination for health reasons, you should carry an official note from your doctor verifying the condition.

The following vaccinations are highly recommended for travel to every African country:

• Hepatitis A and B

• Meningococcal meningitis

• Rabies

• Typhoid

The health situation in most African countries requires visitors to be up to date with all common childhood vaccines. This includes Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio. If you are traveling with children, make sure they have had all their shots. You may also need to get boosters for tetanus, diphtheria and measles if you haven’t had those in a while.

Some African countries have actual entry requirements and won’t let you in unless you have proof you’ve been vaccinated against a specific disease. The most common is yellow fever. Often, you need this only if you have traveled from a country where yellow fever is prevalent, so for those of you over-landing, it’s wise to get the shot before you go. Here’s a map of countries where yellow fever immunization is an entry requirement and you can also double check with the embassy of the country you are traveling to for the latest information. This map is also great for finding out which countries require other types of immunization as well.

Countries in Africa also differ as to which diseases are prevalent and you have to adjust your vaccinations according to your specific destination. While everyone should get the recommended shots listed above, to find out what you need to get per country click on the links below under “Great Resource” for more detailed information.

The Yellow Card

All immunizations must be recorded and presented on an official International Certificate of Vaccination, also known as the “yellow health card.” Your doctor or health care provider will fill out the card and you must get an official stamp, obtainable from your county health department (some doctors can also provide the stamp at the time of vaccination). In most cases you will only need to present a Yellow Card if traveling to an area where a Yellow Fever immunization is required.

Great Resource

The best online resource for overseas health is the Centers for Disease Control’s Travel Information website, which lists routine, recommended, and required vaccinations for every country in the world and Prevention’s website and Public Health Agency of Canada. We have provided you with an overview of immunizations, but be sure to check the mentioned resources for the latest up-to-date information on international health.

NOTE: The Yellow Book is the definitive resource for this frequently changing information on required travel immunizations. This book is published every two years by the CDC; for more up-to-date information and breaking news on travelers’ illnesses, check out the CDC website regularly.

Health information by region can be found on the CDC’s Destinations page.

NOTE: You are responsible for all expenses incurred while traveling in another country should you become ill. The U.S. Department of State has country specific information regarding travel insurance. You need to check with your insurance agent to see if your current coverage needs updated to include extra travel medical insurance or other type of medical insurance rider or new policy. You will still need to pay all costs of care even if you have insurance and file a claim later.