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Vaccines Help Protect Travelers of All Ages

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Vaccines are one of the most important tools you have for preventing certain diseases. If you travel to other countries, it is important to get vaccinated. Some diseases that are not common in the United States still exist in other parts of the world. In addition, in an airport or airplane, other people can expose you to disease.

Before you travel, review your vaccination history. Check with your doctor or nurse to make sure you have had all of the recommended vaccines. A vaccine can become less effective over time. You may need a “booster shot,” even if you had vaccines when you were younger.

Get Vaccinated Before Traveling

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Get the recommended vaccines before you travel. If you're traveling outside the United States, you may need to see a travel medicine specialist or visit a travel clinic. The best plan is to set up a visit 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. Most vaccines take time to give protection, and some vaccines must be given in a series that can take several days or weeks.

If it's less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor or travel clinic. You might still benefit from shots or medications. You can also get other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

If you're a parent, double check your child's vaccination records. Some vaccines are recommended at younger ages if children travel outside the United States. Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child needs to get any early vaccines or booster shots.

You can get vaccines in many places, including doctors' offices, health departments, travel clinics, and pharmacies. Getting vaccinated before you travel is an easy way to protect yourself and your loved ones against some diseases. For additional information on smart travel, see Immunization for Travelers [PDF - 89KB].

3 Types of Vaccines for Travelers

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There are 3 types of vaccines for travelers: routine, recommended, and required. The CDC Traveler's Health website provides a checklist for vaccination and travel that includes information for those with special health needs or circumstances, such as traveling with an infant or having a disease like diabetes or HIV that reduces your body's ability to fight other illnesses.

Routine vaccines (for example, measles and rubella) are necessary for protection from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world, even though they are not common in the United States. Be sure you and your loved ones are up to date on these vaccines.

Routine Vaccinations

If you're not sure which vaccines are routine, see the recommended schedules:

Recommended Vaccinations

Some vaccines are specifically recommended to protect travelers from illnesses in other parts of the world and to prevent spreading diseases across international borders. Which vaccines do you need? It depends on where you are going, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year, your age, your health status, and your vaccination history.

You can see which vaccines are recommended for international travel on the CDC Travelers' Health website. See the destinations page and look up the country or countries you will visit.

Required Vaccinations

Travelers are required to get yellow fever vaccine to enter some countries. Check your destination on Yellow Fever and Malaria Information, by Country.

When you travel, be aware of current travel notices and outbreaks. You might need vaccines that are not usually recommended, or you might need to take other precautions.


Last syndicated: November 27, 2013
This content is brought to you by: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)