Immunization Information for Foreign Travel

Immunizations can protect you from certain diseases. Immunizations can also prevent the spread of certain infections. It is important to see your caregiver or a travel medicine specialist 4–6 weeks before you travel. This allows time for vaccines to take effect. It also provides enough time for you to get vaccines that must be given in a series over a period of days or weeks. Immunizations for travelers include:

  • Routine vaccines. These vaccines are standard for the people in a country.

  • Recommended vaccines. These vaccines are recommended before travel to some countries or regions.

  • Required vaccines. These vaccines are necessary before travel to specific countries or regions.

If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your caregiver. You might still benefit from vaccines or medicines.

WHAT ARE THE ROUTINE VACCINES?

Routine vaccines can protect you from diseases that are common in many parts of the world. Most routine vaccines are given at specific ages during your life. However, routine vaccines also include the annual flu (influenza) vaccine. You should be up-to-date on your routine immunizations before you travel. Your caregiver will be able to review your vaccine history and determine whether you have had all the routine vaccines. You may be advised to get extra doses or booster vaccines even if you are up-to-date on the routine vaccines.

WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDED VACCINES?

Know your travel schedule when you visit your caregiver. The vaccines recommended before foreign travel will depend on several factors, including:

  • The country or countries of travel.

  • Whether you will travel to rural areas.

  • The length of time you will be traveling.

  • The season of the year.

  • Your age.

  • Your health status.

  • Your previous immunizations.

Vaccine recommendations change over time. Your caregiver can tell you what vaccines are recommended before your trip.

The annual influenza vaccine sometimes differs for the northern and southern hemispheres. Unless the annual vaccines are the same in both hemispheres, people with certain chronic medical conditions who are traveling to the other hemisphere shortly before or during the influenza season should also get the other influenza vaccine. The other influenza vaccine should be obtained either before leaving the country or shortly after arrival at the travel site.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIRED VACCINES?

Vaccines may be required during a current outbreak of an infectious disease in a country or region. Your caregiver will be able to tell you about any current outbreaks and required vaccines.

For example, proof of yellow fever immunization is currently required for most people before traveling to certain countries in Africa and South America. This vaccine can only be obtained at approved centers. You should get the yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before your trip. After 10 days, most people show immunity to yellow fever. If it has been longer than 10 years since you received the yellow fever vaccine, another dose is required. If proof of immunization is incomplete or inaccurate, you could be quarantined, denied entry, or given another dose of vaccine at the travel site. If you cannot receive the yellow fever vaccine because of medical reasons, you must have a written statement from your caregiver. The statement must contain a medical reason for the lack of immunization. In such a case, your caregiver should then give you advice on how to decrease your chance of getting yellow fever. That advice should include taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites and limiting outdoor time. Other than having a medical condition or being under the age of 6 months, no other reasons will be accepted for not getting the vaccine.

Proof of meningococcal immunization is required by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health for any person older than 2 years who is taking part in the hajj or umrah. Visas for traveling to the hajj or umrah will not even be issued until there is proof of immunization. You should get this vaccine at least 10 days before your trip. After 10 days, most people show immunity. If it has been longer than 3 years since your last immunization, another dose is required.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov

  • World Health Organization (WHO): www.who.int