Visiting another country can put you at risk for diseases that may not normally be found in your home country. Getting vaccinated against certain diseases is one of the most effective things you can do to protect your health abroad. Plan to get the travel vaccines you need at least a month before your trip.
What is the difference between routine, required, and recommended vaccines?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) divides vaccines for travel into three categories: routine, required, and recommended.
Routine vaccines are those that are recommended for everyone based on their age, health condition, or other risk factors. You may think of these as the childhood vaccines that you get before starting school, but some are routinely recommended for adults.
A required vaccine is one that travellers must have in order to enter a country, based on that country’s government regulations. In most circumstances, yellow fever and COVID-19 are the only vaccines required by certain countries.
Recommended vaccines are those that the CDC recommends travellers get to protect their health, even though they are not required for entry by the government of the country you are visiting. These recommended vaccines protect travellers from illnesses that are usually travel-related.
Here is a list of the most common vaccines required or recommended by CDC for unconventional travel:
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP), varicella (chickenpox), tuberculosis (TB) and polio.
You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water. The CDC recommends this vaccine for most travellers visiting tropical and faraway countries, especially if you are visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.
CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water, regardless of where you are eating or staying.
You can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, blood products like tattoos or piercing, or have any medical procedures.
CDC recommends this vaccine if you plan to visit affected areas located in the meningitis belt during the dry season when the disease is most common.
When travelling to tropical counties, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans.
You should also consider this vaccine if you plan to visit rural areas or will be spending a lot of time outdoors in affected countries. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans.
Required if travelling from a country with risk of YF virus transmission, including transit in an airport located in a country with risk of YF virus transmission.
Vaccination may be considered for adults who are travelling to areas of active cholera transmission. Avoiding unsafe food and water and washing your hands can also help prevent cholera.
Although rabies can be found in bats and other mammals, it is not a major risk to most travellers. CDC recommends rabies vaccine only for travellers involved in outdoor activities that put them at risk for animal bites.
Vaccinations required for international travel are varied and requirements change from time to time depending on global outbreaks and changes in disease patterns. Your country’s national immunisation centre offers comprehensive advice to travellers and vaccination services for international travellers.
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new or concerning variants, differs from country to country. All travellers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before travelling.
Fully vaccinated travellers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you get vaccinated against the COVID-19 variants.
To learn more about COVID-19 travel recommendations for a specific destination, visit CDC’s page COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.