Traveling abroad can expose you to diseases which are not common in your home country and even risk you bringing home the diseases. Travel vaccines are the most recommended ways of protecting oneself since they are safe and effective. Travel vaccinations or travel immunizations are shots given to travelers who wish to visit certain areas of the world which prevent contracting certain serious illnesses. Vaccines expose the body to dead or weakened viruses or bacteria which can not cause the sickness but the body responds to them by making antibodies which protect you in case of future exposure to the disease causing viruses or bacteria.
There are three types of travel vaccines:
- Routine vaccines- These are the standard child and adult vaccinations recommended for all U.S. citizens by the CDC and The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (AICP). They protect from infectious diseases here at home.Most people however ignore their adult immunizations such as the tetanus, pertussis and diphtheria vaccinations. Since measles outbreak is common in U.S. and often common in other countries, routine vaccines can be very necessary when traveling abroad.
- Recommended vaccines- These are travel vaccinations which can protect you when you visit areas where there is an intermediate or high risk for you to contract certain diseases. They are also used to help curb and prevent the spread of diseases from one country to the other. The recommendations on vaccines vary based on the country, your age, overall health and your travel plans while in that country. The CDC provides a list of destinations and the recommended immunizations which are available in its website.
- Required vaccines- These are imposed by International Health Regulations and they are only two currently. The yellow fever vaccine is required for travel to certain parts of Africa and South America where the disease contraction is quite high. Saudi Arabia has a meningococcal vaccine which is a requirement during hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca).
Other vaccine preventable travel-related illnesses that are not covered by routine adult vaccinations are:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
Most travel vaccinations need to be given in a series of shots over a period of days or weeks. Given that vaccines also take time to work, it’s recommended that you visit a travel health provider for the vaccinations 4 to 6 weeks before your travel.