Vaccines protect travelers from getting diseases abroad that may not normally be found in the United States.
Visiting another country can put you at risk for diseases that may not normally be found in the United States. 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. Most vaccines need to be given ahead of time to give you full protection against a disease. If you need a yellow fever vaccine, plan to travel some distance away from where you live to get it. Only a limited number of clinics have the vaccine.
What vaccines do I need before I travel?
- You should be up to date on your routine vaccines. Depending on where you travel, you may come into contact with diseases that are rare in the United States. For example, although measles is rare in the United States, it is more common in other countries. Measles outbreaks happen frequently in many popular destinations in Europe and beyond—don’t go unprotected!
- You may need other vaccines before you travel depending on your destination, your medical history, your planned activities, and other health concerns. Discuss your itinerary with your health care provider to make sure you get any destination-specific vaccines and medicines, such as yellow fever vaccine or medicine to prevent malaria.
What is the difference between routine, required, and recommended vaccines?
CDC divides vaccines for travel into three categories: (1) routine, (2) required, and (3) recommended.
- Routine vaccines are those that are recommended for everyone in the United States 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, and some are recommended every year (like the flu vaccine) or every 10 years (like the tetanus booster for adults).
- A required vaccine is one that travelers must have in order to enter a country, based on that country’s government regulations. In most circumstances, yellow fever is the only vaccine required by certain countries. Keep in mind that yellow fever vaccine can be recommended by CDC to protect your health, as well as required by a country. CDC’s recommendation is different from the country’s requirement. A vaccine recommendation is designed to keep you from getting yellow fever; a vaccine requirement is the country’s attempt to keep travelers from bringing the yellow fever virus into the country. Vaccine requirements can change at any time, because country governments control those decisions.
- Recommended vaccines are those that CDC recommends travelers get to protect their health, even though they aren’t required for entry by the government of the country you are visiting. Recommended vaccines are not part of the routine vaccination schedule. They protect travelers from illnesses that are usually travel-related. For example, a typhoid vaccine can prevent typhoid, a serious disease spread by contaminated food and water, which is not usually found in the United States. The vaccines recommended for a traveler depend on several things, including age, health, and itinerary.
Where can I go to get travel vaccines?
There are many providers for pre-travel health care. If you are traveling to a country with health risks similar to those in the United States, you may be able to see your family doctor or nurse for needed vaccines. Your city or county health department may also provide travel vaccines.
However, many travelers will need to see a travel medicine specialist. This might be the case if you are visiting several countries or countries with many health risks, or if you have a pre-existing health condition. To learn more about where to get travel vaccines, see Find a Clinic.
If yellow fever vaccine is recommended for or required by your destination, you’ll need to go to a vaccine center authorized to give yellow fever vaccinations. Many yellow fever vaccine centers also provide other pre-travel health care services. Find an authorized US yellow fever vaccine center.
How far ahead should I get any needed travel vaccines?
You should make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist or your health care provider ideally at least a month before your trip to get needed vaccines and medicines. Even if you’re a last-minute traveler, there may be options for getting the vaccines and medicines you need.
If you need a yellow fever vaccine, keep in mind that it is currently available only at a limited number of clinics in theUnited States.The nearest yellow fever vaccination clinic may be some distance away from where you live, and appointments may be limited. Find the nearest clinic and contact it ahead of time to make sure it has the vaccine.
How long does immunity from travel vaccines last (when do I need to get a booster dose)?
How long travel vaccines last depends on the vaccine. If you’re traveling outside the United States, you should see a health care provider who is familiar with travel medicine to talk about your upcoming trip. He or she will be able to provide you with advice for any vaccines and vaccine boosters based upon where you are going and when you got your previous vaccinations. Be sure to bring your vaccine records to your appointment!
Can I get travel vaccines in a country outside the United States to save on costs?
CDC does not recommend getting travel vaccines in another country because:
- Most vaccines need to be administered ahead of time to give you full protection against a disease.
- Vaccines available in other countries may be different from the ones used in the United States and may be less effective.
- If you’re concerned about the cost of travel vaccines and medicines, check to see if your city or county health department has a travel medicine clinic. It may cost less to visit a doctor there than to go to a private doctor.