Before traveling to other countries, it’s important for you to review your vaccine history and needs with your healthcare provider. Do this as far in advance as possible. The CDC advises that you should review the vaccines below with your healthcare provider at least 4 to 6 weeks before you travel. You’ll need to plan your vaccine schedule. Some vaccines can’t be given at the same time as others. Some need more than 1 dose. Some must be given as much as 1 month before travel to protect you. These vaccines are not for all people. There may be some cases in which they should not be used.
What vaccines do you need?
The CDC divides travel vaccines into routine, recommended, and required. Your provider will review these with you. They will talk about what you need for your travel plans. Review your vaccine history with your healthcare provider. Adults should have completed the primary childhood vaccine series. Also be sure that infants and children are on schedule with their vaccine series.
You may also need these vaccines:
Tetanus-diphtheria (Td). You should have a booster of the adult Td vaccine every 10 years. If you are an adult and have not yet had a Td booster with the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine (Tdap), you should get that shot first. After a 1-time Tdap vaccine, get a Td booster every 10 years.
Influenza (flu). A yearly vaccine is advised by the CDC for everyone age 6 months and older.
Pneumococcal. There are several types of this vaccine. A vaccine is advised for people 65 years or older and for other people at high risk. This includes people with heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. It includes people with lung problems such as asthma, or kidney problems. And it includes people who have problems with their immune system. Talk with your healthcare provider about which vaccine is best for you.
Polio. You’ll need this if you plan to travel to and stay for more than 4 weeks in a country where polio is still active. this is true for babies, children, and adults. Each should get a polio vaccine for their age group, or a polio booster within 12 months before travel.
Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). People 6 months of age and older who travel abroad should be protected against measles. The MMR vaccine is advised for people born after 1957 who plan to travel outside the U.S. Talk with your healthcare provider about how many doses you may need.
COVID-19. As vaccines for COVID-19 become increasingly available, you will likely need to show that you have been vaccinated or have immunity before traveling on planes and to certain areas of the world.
Other vaccines you may need
Yellow fever. You need this vaccine for travel to some countries in Africa. And it’s advised for several places in South America. You may need a certificate of vaccination.
Hepatitis B. You need this vaccine if you will be in a place that has high rates of hepatitis B. This includes Asia, Africa, and some areas of the Middle East. It includes the islands of the South and Western Pacific. And it includes some areas of South America, and some parts of the Caribbean, such as the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Children who have not had this vaccine before should get it. If you had the primary childhood vaccine series, you don’t need a booster.
Hepatitis A. You need this vaccine if you are going to a place where there is major risk for hepatitis A. This is true even if you are staying in urban areas and luxury hotels in those regions. If you had the primary childhood vaccine series, you don’t need a booster.
Typhoid. You need this vaccine if you will be in places where food and water safety may be a problem. This includes South Asia, which has some drug-resistant forms, and in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
Meningococcal. You need this vaccine if you are going to sub-Saharan Africa during the dry season. The dry season is December to June. It’s needed for visitors to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj and certain other locations. There are 2 major types of the vaccine. Your healthcare provider will decide if you need 1 or both. This will be based on the type of meningococcal disease outbreaks in your area of travel.
Japanese encephalitis or tick-borne encephalitis. You may need this vaccine if you will be on a long trip or you plan to live in places of risk. This includes rural farming areas.
Rabies. You may need this vaccine if you will be in rural outdoor areas where rabies is common and you may be exposed to wild animals.
Cholera. The risk for cholera is very low for most travelers if you follow standard precautions. This is true even if you are visiting places with epidemic cholera. You should only drink and use safe water, cook foods safely, and wash your hands well with safe water. A single-dose oral cholera vaccine is approved in the U.S. for travelers to places where cholera is active. If you are going to such an area, talk with your healthcare provider. Ask you should get the cholera vaccine before travel.
Malaria. There is no vaccine for malaria. But travelers to countries with malaria are advised to take an antimalarial medicine. None of the medicines are fully effective. So if you are in areas of risk, you must also use more kinds of protection. These include using insect repellent, and wearing long sleeves and long pants. You will need to sleep in a mosquito-free room or using an insecticide-treated bed net.
Many of these vaccines can be given at the same time. Talk with your healthcare provider for more information about these vaccines and medicines.
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