What Are the Different Types of Travel Vaccines?

Felicia Dye

Many health experts believe that everyone's list of travel vaccines should include vaccinations against illnesses such as rubella, mumps and tetanus, all of which are considered routine in many developed countries. Yellow fever is a vaccine that is required in many cases. Typhoid fever and hepatitis A are examples of travel vaccines that should be obtained when one is traveling to certain places.

Most people need to get immunizations before they travel.
Most people need to get immunizations before they travel.

Of the list of available travel vaccines, yellow fever is only one that is required by international health regulations. Even then, it is necessary only when traveling to countries in South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Yellow fever is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is a viral disease, so there is no cure, and it can be fatal. Yellow fever vaccines have proved to be highly effective and might protect an individual for more than three decades, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Oral vaccines.
Oral vaccines.

Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis are three travel vaccines that are recommended by the WHO. Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can be found in a respiratory or cutaneous form. Tetanus is a type of bacterial infection that can thrive in wounds and affect the nervous system. Pertussis, commonly referred to as whopping cough, is a contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system that is characterized by a distinct cough. In some places, such as the United States, individuals are given a combination vaccine that provides protection against all of these illnesses.

Travel vaccines are encouraged for those visiting certain countries.
Travel vaccines are encouraged for those visiting certain countries.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a viral infection that affects the lymph nodes and is characterized by a red skin rash. Measles is a condition that involves a similar type of rash but that generally is more infectious. Mumps is another contagious viral infection that leads to painful swelling of the salivary glands. The WHO encourages travelers to be vaccinated against these infections before traveling. This also might be done by way of a combination vaccine.

Some travel vaccines tend to be encouraged only when visiting certain countries or regions. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), all individuals traveling to Mexico should be vaccinated to prevent the contraction of typhoid fever. This bacterial infection is commonly spread by drinking infected water or by eating food that has been contaminated by feces containing the infection. Contraction of this illness, which also is a risk for people who are traveling to certain sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, can be life-threatening.

Hepatitis A vaccination also is highly recommended for people who are traveling to these regions. The CDC has described hepatitis A as one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases acquired during travel. One of the dangers of this condition is that it is spread by numerous means, including direct human contact, from shellfish harvested in contaminated waters and through contaminated drinking water.

The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is an example of a vaccine advised for some people traveling for extended periods in Asia.
The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is an example of a vaccine advised for some people traveling for extended periods in Asia.

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Discussion Comments


Our pastor and his wife went on a mission trip to Africa and said the yellow fever vaccine was no fun, either, but they also had to have several other shots, including gamma globulin for hepatitis and a typhoid fever shot. They had to take the shots about 10 days apart, if I remember correctly.

Our pastor's wife said the best thing to stay well when you were going somewhere like Africa was to make sure you drank bottled water and ate fruit you peeled yourself, and nothing pre-sliced. I'd love to make a trip like that, but I'm such a wimp I don't know if I could deal with all the food restrictions.


When my aunt went to Kenya, she said she had to have a good many vaccines. That was in the early 1950s, so things may have changed since then.

She said the yellow fever vaccine was painful and made her feel awful for several days afterward. I have heard that it's best to have all vaccines at least three months before you intend to travel, if you know you're going, with a minimum of six weeks. I know not every vaccine can be given with another vaccine, and you have to wait a certain amount of time before you get any more. I guess that's so they don't interact badly with each other or something.

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