Travel Medicine

What Are Travel Vaccinations?

Travel vaccines, also called travel immunizations, are shots travelers can get before visiting certain areas of the world that help protect them from serious illnesses. Vaccinations work by exposing the body to a germs or parts of germs of the disease it will protect against. You can’t get the disease from the vaccine because the viruses or bacteria are dead or severely weakened. The body responds to the vaccination by making antibodies that will protect you if you are exposed to the disease in the future.

Travel vaccines are safe, effective ways to help protect travelers from bringing home more than they bargained for.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do I need shots to travel?

Getting immunized with travel vaccines is a good investment in your health for several reasons:

  • Some countries will require proof of vaccination against diseases like Yellow Fever and Meningitis before they will permit entry.
  • In many countries diseases such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever are endemic (always present) and can present a major health threat.
  • Many diseases are spread through contaminated food and water, and since a traveler must consume from local supply it is wise to be protected.
  • Several travel vaccines will also protect against diseases found here in the U.S. (e.g. Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B).
  • As an added benefit, many vaccines offer protection for 10 years to a lifetime, which means safe and worry-free travel for years to come.

2. How do I know which shots I should receive?

We recommend that vaccines be based on the Centers for Disease Control protocols and outbreak notifications. We carry most vaccines and are a Certified Yellow Fever vaccination center.  A link to get updated information for travel vaccinations. https://www.vaccines.gov/who_and_when/travel

3. What are vaccinations for traveling based on?

The vaccines you need to get before traveling will depend on few things, including:

Where you plan to travel. Some countries require proof of vaccination for certain diseases, like yellow fever or polio. And traveling in developing countries and rural areas may bring you into contact with more diseases, which means you might need more vaccines before you visit.

Your health. If you’re pregnant or have an ongoing illness or weakened immune system, you may need additional vaccines.

The vaccinations you’ve already had. It’s important to be up to date on your routine vaccinations. While diseases like measles are rare in the United States, they are more common in other countries.

4. How far ahead of my trip should I receive travel vaccines?

For the average one to two week tourist/ business trip being seen 2 weeks to 1 month before travel is ideal. It is still worthwhile to be seen even if you will be traveling the next day!

How soon you need to be seen depends on where you are going, what you’ll be doing and how long you’ll be there.

Travelers staying more than three weeks or planning to be in remote areas may need more time to prepare. 4 weeks to 8 weeks is advised.

5. Do I need other things for travel besides vaccinations?

Depending on your destination, you may need a prescription for anti-malaria pills. Sometimes travelers can also benefit from medications that prevent high altitude and sea sickness, or that can treat gastro-intestinal problems.

6. Can you provide a yellow card?

The yellow card is the International Certificate of Vaccination, which is used most specifically to document yellow fever immunization and other required vaccinations. A yellow card will be provided at the time of your immunization.

7. Will my health insurance cover the cost of travel vaccinations?

Many health insurance companies consider international travel an elective activity and therefore do not cover travel vaccines. However, we encourage you to submit the itemized receipt you will receive at your office visit to your insurance company along with their claim form.

8. Will I get sick from the vaccines?

Side-effects to most vaccines are minimal, consisting of a low-grade headache or fever, mild body aches and fatigue, lasting 24-48 hours. This occurs in less than 25% of people receiving vaccinations, and can be easily treated by taking over-the-counter medications (Ibuprofen, Tylenol).