When planning to travel, it’s important to remember to look out for your health. Vaccines protect you from diseases that exist in other countries. They also prevent the possibility of new diseases from being introduced into those areas. If you’ll be travelling, try to arrange for a vaccination about four to six weeks before your start date because most vaccines need time to take effect. Plus, some may require multiple visits to give the proper dosage.

It’s also important to inform your doctor if you’ll be visiting more than one country, as the requirements for each may be different. First, your routine vaccinations need to be current. Then, you and your doctor will need to discuss the recommended and (possibly) required vaccines specific to your travel destination.

Vaccines fall into three categories:

  • Routine:  Routine vaccines must be up-to-date in order to travel abroad. They include protection against the following diseases:
    • diphtheria
    • tetanus
    • pertussis
    • measles
    • mumps
    • rubella
    • varicella (chickenpox)
    • polio
    • hepatitis A
    • hepatitis B
    • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
    • rotavirus
    • HPV
    • pneumococcal
    • meningococcal
  • Required:  According to the CDC, the only required vaccine for travel is to protect against yellow fever for anyone traveling to sub-Saharan Africa or South America.  *The meningococcal vaccine is required for travel to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj, the largest pilgrimage in the world. 
  • Recommended:  Recommended vaccinations depend on several factors: chiefly, on your destination, your age, and your health. These vary based on the government requirements of each country. Brazil, for instance, recommends vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, and rabies, in addition to your routine vaccinations. Certain areas of the country are at-risk for malaria, and it is recommended to take antimalarial drugs if you’ll be traveling to these parts of Brazil. Travelers to western European countries (such as Spain, Italy, France, and Germany) on the other hand, have a much shorter list of recommended vaccines, namely hepatitis B along with the routine vaccinations.

Depending on where you’ll be going and how long you’ll be staying there, the type of vaccination(s) you need will vary. Speak with your doctor if you’re unsure about which type of vaccine you should get. The CDC provides a thorough list, based by country, regarding vaccination requirements.

Safe travel involves proactive travelers. Educate yourself about the country or countries you’ll be visiting, and talk with your doctor before first.

Before You Travel Checklist:

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor to assess your health and discuss vaccinations you may need to get.
  • Inform yourself about the vaccinations you need. Research your travel destination and understand which vaccines that country recommends or requires.
  • Consider your health—are you well enough to travel? If you have a chronic medical condition, discuss with your doctor if it is wise and safe for you to be traveling abroad.
  • Are you pregnant? If you are of childbearing age, the CDC advises staying up-to-date with your routine check-ups. Women considering becoming pregnant should wait until 28 days or longer after getting the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) or yellow fever vaccines to reduce risk to the fetus. And pregnant women are strongly advised to consult with their doctor before traveling.
  • Will you be traveling with infants or children? If so, speak with your doctor about which vaccinations are recommended for them.