Vaccinations Before Traveling Vaccinations Before Traveling
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Vaccines Help Protect Travelers of All Ages

Travel within the U.S. or to other countries can be an opportunity for volunteerism or work, fun and relaxation, but also exposure to disease. Make sure you and your loved ones are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases that may be only a plane ride away.

Are you a prepared traveler? As you budget, write to-do lists, and pack, be sure to also check on your vaccination status. Travel – both within the United States and to other countries – can expose you to infectious viruses and bacteria. If you and your loved ones are not protected by up-to-date vaccinations, you are at risk of catching serious diseases.

Check Vaccination Records Before Travel

Vaccines are one of the most important tools you have for preventing certain diseases. If you travel to other countries, it is important to get vaccinated because some diseases that are not common in the United States still exist in other parts of the world. In addition, in an airport or airplane, other travelers can expose you to disease.

Before you travel, review your vaccination history. Check with your doctor or nurse to see if that you’ve had all of the recommended vaccines. Remember that a vaccine’s effectiveness may decrease over time. You may need boosters even if you had vaccines when you were younger.

Get the recommended vaccines before you travel. If you’re traveling outside the United States, you may need to see a travel medicine specialist. Ideally, set up a visit 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. Most vaccines take time to give protection and some vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks. If it’s less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. You might still benefit from shots or medications and get other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

If you’re a parent, double check your child’s vaccination records. Some vaccines are recommended at younger ages if children travel outside the United States. Talk to your child’s doctor about whether your child needs to get any early vaccines.

Vaccines are readily available in many places, including doctors’ offices, health departments, and pharmacies. Getting vaccinated before you travel is an easy way to protect yourself and your loved ones against some diseases. For additional information on smart travel, see Immunization for Travelers[PDF – 89KB].

3 Types of Vaccines for Travelers

There are 3 types of vaccines for travelers: routine, recommended, and required.

Routine vaccines (for example, measles and rubella) are necessary for protection from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world, even though they may rarely occur in the United States. Be sure you and your loved ones are up to date on these vaccines.

Routine Vaccinations Traveling to Asia with a child?

Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a rare but deadly disease caused by a mosquito-borne virus found in Asia and parts of the western Pacific. JE vaccine is recommended for travelers who plan to spend at least a month in areas where JE occurs.

JE vaccine is approved only for people 17 years of age and older. There is no pediatric vaccine. Parents should talk with their child’s doctor about other options.

All travelers, including children, should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites to reduce the risk for JE and other diseases that may be spread by mosquitoes or pests.

If you’re not sure which vaccines are routine, see the recommended schedules:

Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule — United States Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule — United States Recommended Vaccinations

Some vaccines are specifically recommended to protect travelers from illnesses in other parts of the world and to prevent spreading diseases across international borders. Which vaccines do you need? It depends on where you are going, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year, your age, your health status, and your vaccination history.

You can see which vaccines are recommended for international travel on the CDC Travelers’ Health website. See the destinations page and look up the country or countries you will visit.

Required Vaccinations

The only vaccine currently required by International Health Regulations is yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. See Yellow Fever Vaccine Requirements.

When you travel, be aware of current travel notices and outbreaks. You might need vaccines that are not usually recommended or you might need to take other precautions.