The ABCs of Travel Vaccination
Getting ready for a big trip can be busy and confusing, especially if you’re going somewhere new or far away. Luckily getting the right vaccinations is as easy as ABC. In fact, you only need to remember one letter to keep all your necessary vaccinations straight: the letter R.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) organizes vaccines related to travel into three categories: Routine, Required, and Recommended. Keeping informed and up-to-date on the information for each category will make the travel vaccination process as quick and painless as possible as getting a shot can be!
Routine: Chances are if you grew up in the United States you received most or all of the listed routine travel vaccines, including hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Depending on your age, you may’ve also been vaccinated against tuberculosis, rotavirus, meningitis or varicella. While all fifty states have specific requirements for childhood vaccinations to be obtained before entering and while attending public school, there aren’t any federal laws, so check in with your physician. Additionally, some shots require boosters after a certain amount of time; a tetanus shot, for example, should be re-administered every ten years in adults. Some diseases that are no longer prevalent in the United States still have a presence in other countries, so it’s important to keep your routine vaccinations current.
Recommended: The Center for Disease Control’s list of recommended vaccines varies largely on a country-to-country basis, so check their website and be sure to share your itinerary with your travel health provider. The CDC’s website has a comprehensive A to Z country listing featuring important travel information for every destination, including immunization and malaria medication recommendations, and up to the minute health bulletins, a valuable tool for any traveler. Some vaccines that are commonly recommended for travelers, but remain outside the realm of the routine American immunizations are the vaccinations against typhoid and Japanese encephalitis. Additional immunizations, such as a rabies vaccine, may be required if you’re working with livestock or plan to spend a lot of time in rural areas, so share your activity plans with your doctor as well.
Additional Seasonal and Patient Health-Based Recommendations: Because airports and planes are overcrowded and have poor air circulation, you may consider getting the influenza vaccine, particularly if you’re travelling during flu season. For those with asthma or compromised immune systems, an up-to-date flu shot is recommended year-round. Depending on your age and preexisting health conditions, your travel health provider may also include the pneumonia and shingles vaccines on the list of recommendations.
Required: The only vaccine currently required by international regulations is the yellow fever vaccine, mandatory for entry into certain African and South American countries. Travelers entering these countries will be asked to produce a certificate verifying their receipt of the vaccine upon their entry into the country. The immunization against viral meningitis is also required for entry into Saudi Arabia during the yearly period of the hajj pilgrimage.
It is recommended that you receive your vaccinations four to six weeks before you travel; this will give the vaccines time to spread through your body and take effect, so make an appointment with your travel health provider as soon as possible!