Immunizations and vaccines

When you travel to a foreign country, you may face health issues that you would not ordinarily experience at home. So, to reduce your risk of getting sick while abroad, make sure to research if there are any required or recommended immunizations or vaccines.

The ideal way to begin is to schedule a visit with your doctor four to six weeks prior to your trip. He or she should have some knowledge of what is needed. If it’s a last-minute trip, still try to check with your doctor to see if any vaccines or preventive medications are recommended.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) divides travel vaccinations into three categories: routine, recommended, and required.

  • Required: The only vaccine classified as required by International Health Regulations is the yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.
  • Routine: These vaccinations are normally administered during childhood and international travelers should make sure that their vaccinations are up to date and that no boosters are required.
  • Recommended: These vaccinations are given to protect travelers from illnesses that may occur in specific regions and during certain seasons (e.g., malaria). Your age, overall health status, and immunization history will likely play a role as well.

If you would like to learn more, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC are good sources. You can learn more about immunizations and vaccines for specific countries here:

WHO: http://www.who.int/ith/vaccines/en/

CDC: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel