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What Are the Different Types of Travel Injections?

By Kay Paddock
Updated May 17, 2024
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Travel injections are vaccine shots a person should get before traveling to different parts of the world. These types of vaccines are designed to protect people from diseases that may be rare where they live but prevalent in other countries. There are three basic types of travel injections: vaccinations that are required before traveling to certain countries, routine vaccinations that many people had when they were children but may need again, and non-routine vaccinations that are highly recommended. A number of common travel injections are best administered at least four weeks before the trip, while others must be given in a series over a period of time.

The yellow fever vaccination is one that is recommended for almost all travelers, but is usually required for entry into certain parts of South America and Africa. In those cases, an International Certificate of Vaccination may be necessary to prove the yellow fever vaccination was properly administered. Another travel injection that may be required is the Meningococcal vaccine for those traveling to Saudi Arabia during the time of the Hajj, an annual religious pilgrimage. Particular vaccinations could become requirements at any time, so checking with a doctor and travel authorities is important to get current information.

People who are not up to date on routine vaccinations or who were not immunized as children are urged to update their immunizations before traveling. The routine immunizations a traveler should ask his doctor about are MMR; Hib; hepatitis B; DPT; and polio, with the polio vaccine often given as an oral dose instead of a shot. These standard immunizations protect against a number of potentially deadly illnesses. These diseases may be fairly rare in most industrialized nations, but other countries may have outbreaks or even epidemics that put non-immunized travelers at serious risk.

Vaccinations that are not routine but are recommended for most travelers include protection against such diseases as cholera, hepatitis A, tuberculosis and several others that may be common in some parts of the world. Which travel injections that are recommended will depend on the area of travel and may even be affected by the time of year. Small children who have not yet received all their immunizations should be checked by a doctor to be sure they are not put at risk by travel.

Another factor that affects the type of travel injections that might be recommended is the health of the traveler. Some conditions that affect the immune system, for instance, may mean that the traveler needs vaccinations that a healthy person might not need. It is important for a traveler to talk to his doctor, as he will be aware of his patient's medical history and can better recommend the appropriate types of travel injections.

Proper immunization for some diseases takes time, so planning for the proper shots should be considered early in travel preparation. The yellow fever International Certification of Vaccination does not become valid until ten days after the injection, for instance. Additionally, most standard immunizations should be given at least four to six weeks before departure. Some routine vaccinations also may need to be given in multiple injections if the traveler was not properly immunized as a child. These travel injections may need to be arranged several weeks or months in advance to allow time for them to become effective.

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Discussion Comments

By Feryll — On Sep 18, 2014

I had never heard of yellow fever until I was planning a trip to South America and learned that I needed to be vaccinated against this disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. If we could get rid of mosquitoes several of the travel vaccinations we need could be eliminated.

By Laotionne — On Sep 18, 2014

@Drentel - You are not alone. There are plenty of people in industrialized countries who are not fully vaccinated and don't meet travel vaccination requirements. I recently saw a news report that said most Americans are still getting the proper vaccinations, but the numbers are dropping. And once the number drops below 95 percent then there is a risk of a serious outbreak of disease.

Even though you are not fully vaccinated you still are not likely to be infected with one of these diseases as long as 95 percent of the people around you are. When you go to another country and the fully vaccinated number is below 95 percent then you are in more danger of getting a disease you are not vaccinated against.

By Drentel — On Sep 16, 2014

When I was a kid growing up, we would go to the local health clinic to receive vaccinations. I was vaccinated against all of the diseases that were on the vaccinations' list at the time, but I haven't had any booster shots or any additional vaccines in the last 20 plus years. After reading this article, I'm wondering just how many vaccinations I will need to go to Mexico with my family.

I didn't know that I would need to get some of these shots so far ahead of my trip. I'm glad I read this article and didn't wait until the last minute.

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