Travel vaccinations protect the traveler from contracting a new disease or bringing it back home. Each country will have a list of vaccinations required prior to entering. Travel vaccinations can be done at a medical office or travel clinic.
Why are travel vaccinations important?
Traveling outside of the United States can be a very rewarding experience. But foreign travel can also cause the traveler to encounter diseases not typically found in the US (such as malaria, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever). Vaccinations can prevent the traveler from getting sick and potentially bringing the disease back to the US. Even if the chance of contracting the disease is minimal, this is a safe practice to consider. The ideal time to get a vaccination is 4-6 weeks ahead of time to allow the body to create enough antibodies to be effective. Travel vaccinations can be received in a medical office, at a local pharmacy, a specified travel clinic, or at the health department.
Do travel vaccinations have any negative side effects?
Reactions to the vaccination will vary by person but are generally like routine vaccinations. For the most part, less than 10% of people who get the vaccinations experience negative side effects. Negative side effects may include tiredness, headache, nausea, and irritation at the injection site. Not all vaccinations can be given to all ages. A medical professional will be able to determine eligibility.
Are there different types of travel vaccinations?
The CDC classifies travel vaccinations into three groups:
- Routine: vaccinations recommended for the general population. These are generally started in childhood.
- Required: vaccinations required by a host country prior to visiting. These types of vaccinations can change depending on the hose government.
- Recommended: vaccinations administered to protect the health of the traveler but aren’t required to travel or enter the host country.
Which vaccines are needed?
To determine which vaccinations are needed, the traveler should ask the following questions:
Where is the traveling taking place?
Certain countries require proof of disease-specific vaccinations before entering (such as the Yellow Fever vaccines in Africa). Many third world countries will bring the traveler into contact with will have more diseases than found elsewhere so supplemental vaccinations may be required.
How is the health of the traveler?
Those who have compromised immune systems, are pregnant, or plan on becoming pregnant may require further vaccinations.
What vaccinations has the traveler already had?
Though the traveler may be up to date on vaccines, just because a disease has been eradicated in the US, does not mean it has been eradicated elsewhere. For example, the Yellow Fever has been eradicated in the US but it very prominent in Africa and South America.
Is it possible to still contract a disease after vaccination?
While a vaccination provides the best protection against foreign diseases while travelling, there is still a very small chance a disease could be contracted. When people become vaccinated against a disease, this not only protects them, but also acts as a barrier to prevent bringing the disease back home.
Prior to departure, the traveler should check the government website of the destination country. This should be done every time a country is visited. Remember, some viruses can change over time. Certain repeat vaccinations may be required. Travel vaccinations are meant to keep both the traveler, destination country, and home country safe. Becoming vaccinated will protect the disease from being acquired and spread around.