Are Travel Vaccinations Necessary?

When traveling abroad, checking up on vaccinations is always an important checklist item. While some areas are at higher risk than others, many diseases that are rare in the United States are still common in other countries. For international travel, complete both routine vaccinations and any destination-specific vaccination recommendations.

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The travel details matter

Some countries have specific travel vaccination requirements or recommendations and it outlined by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The most commonly required special vaccine is the yellow fever vaccination for those traveling in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Travel vaccination is also available for protection against typhoid and hepatitis A.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends scheduling an appointment with a healthcare provider 4 to 6 weeks prior to any planned international travel date. This allows for time to receive the full series of any vaccinations that might be required.

Requirements will vary

Vaccination needs depend on the traveler’s overall health and whether or not they are up-to-date on routine vaccinations. For example, women who are pregnant and individuals with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems may need more vaccinations. All travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccines like the flu shot and tetanus shots or boosters.

The need for travel vaccinations also varies depending on the itinerary of the trip. It’s important not only to consider the destination country, but to also take into account the length of the trip, the season, lodging arrangements, food sources, and planned activities. A student participating in a mission trip is going to have different vaccination recommendations than an executive vacationing at a 5-star resort.

Aren’t vaccinations just for children?

Some adults overlook routine vaccinations, knowing they were vaccinated as children. However, childhood vaccination doesn’t last forever. There may be new vaccines that were not available in previous years, and some viruses can change over time, underscoring the need for updated vaccination.

Make a checklist

It may be helpful to compile a list of questions when preparing for travel abroad. Here are some of the most common considerations:

  • Which countries are on the travel itinerary? Are there any special warnings for those countries?
  • What season will it be?
  • What are the lodging conditions?
  • How long is the trip?
  • What activities are planned?
  • Will there be any interactions with animals or in a medical setting?
  • Are routine vaccinations and wellness visits up-to-date?

Travel vaccination requirements will vary on a case-by-case basis. A healthcare provider can determine the exact set of vaccines that will be appropriate for each individual.


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