With the pandemic having caused massive upset within the travel industry, some have envisioned a future in which you’ll need to prove you’ve had a COVID-19 immunisation before you can travel. Of course, such a vaccine doesn’t exist yet, let alone any regulations requiring you to get one. But for true world travellers, getting an immunisation before setting off to a new destination should be familiar enough — there are plenty of places in the world it’s best not to visit if you aren’t up to date on all of your shots.
When you’re travelling, there is a difference between places that suggest getting a vaccine prior to your arrival and places where they are required. Suggested vaccines like Typhoid are simply advised in the event you drink contaminated water or eat fresh fruit or street food that makes you sick. Suggested or recommended travel vaccinations can protect you in areas where there is an intermediate or high risk of contracting certain illnesses, while additionally helping prevent the spread of any diseases from travellers leaving from one country and entering another.
Here’s a list of recommended immunisations from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Hepatitis A: Protects against a virus spread through food and water.
- Hepatitis B: Protects against a virus transmitted via infected body fluids.
- Meningococcal meningitis: Protects against the bacterial infection that causes this serious disease.
Getting immunisations is not up for debate if you wish to travel to certain areas of the world. They may also be required if you’re coming from a specific area that is known for a prevalence of particular illnesses and diseases. Some countries will offer you the immunisation on the spot if you do not have documentation of the required vaccines prior to travel. Examples of some (but not all) diseases and the countries that require them include:
Yellow Fever (contracted from mosquitos)
- Brazil: Required if travelling from Angola or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Gabon: Required for all travellers over 1 year of age.
- Ghana: Required for all travellers over 9 months of age.
- Kenya: Required if travelling from a region with yellow fever.
- Tanzania: Required if travelling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
You can check out the full list of countries where a yellow fever vaccination is required (or only recommended) here. Most countries on the list are ones where you’re most likely to encounter the mosquitos that spread the disease, including countries in Africa and the Americas.
- Afghanistan: Residents of Nigeria travelling to Afghanistan.
- Bahrain: Travellers coming from polio-endemic countries.
- Belize: All travellers coming from polio-endemic countries and citizens of Belize, or people living in Belize and travelling to countries where confirmed polio cases have been reported.
- Brunei: To enter Brunei, travellers arriving from polio-affected countries must be vaccinated.
- Egypt: Travellers from polio-endemic countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria) are required to show proof of vaccination with oral polio vaccine (OPV) or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to apply for an entry visa. The proof is requested regardless of age and vaccination status. In the absence of proof, travellers will be vaccinated upon arrival.
- Georgia: Travellers from countries with a risk of polio transmission.
The CDC provides a full list based on where you’re travelling around the world. Be sure to eview it and schedule your appointments within the allotted times (if noted) to keep yourself and people you come in contact with safe during your travels.
Give yourself time
According to Vaccines.gov, it’s important to get vaccinated at least 4 to 6 weeks before you travel.
This will give the vaccines time to start working, so you’re protected while you’re travelling. It will also usually make sure there’s enough time for you to get vaccines that require more than 1 dose.
Waiting until the last minute may make your travel difficult. For example, the CDC states that proof of yellow fever vaccination is not valid until 10 days after you get it, because of the time it takes for the medicine to begin to protect you.
Some malaria drugs must be started 1 to 2 weeks prior to departure, while others only need to be started 1 to 2 days before your travels. In either case, it is suggested to let your healthcare provider know where you’re going and when so that they can inform you of any necessary actions on your part.