Travel vaccinations can help you stay healthy while traveling outside the United States. To prevent illness, you and your family should be up to date on routine vaccinations. Depending on where you’re going, your travel plans and how long you’re staying, you may need other vaccines, too. Schedule vaccines at least one month before your trip.
Travel vaccinations are vaccines you need before traveling outside of the United States. Children and adults should also be up to date on all routine vaccines before traveling abroad.
Depending on your age, where you’re going and the nature of your trip, you may need vaccines that aren’t on the list of routine immunizations. Or your provider may recommend that you (or your child) get a vaccine or booster shot earlier than you normally would.
Talk to your provider about the specific immunizations you’ll need to stay healthy while traveling. Keep in mind that you may need more than one dose of a vaccine for it to be effective, so you should plan ahead. In short, it’s never too early to start the process.
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Vaccines work by stimulating your immune system. When you receive a vaccine, your immune system responds by creating antibodies. Antibodies are proteins in the body. They fight bacteria and viruses that cause disease.
After you’re vaccinated, your immune system is better able to protect you. If you come in contact with the germs (bacteria or viruses) in the future, your antibodies recognize them and attack them so they can’t make you sick.
A booster shot is another dose of a vaccine that you get months or years after a previous dose. Providers call them booster shots because they “boost” your immune system. These boosts of immunity help your body protect you from disease.
Before you travel outside of the United States, make sure that you and your family have received all routine vaccines and booster shots, including the influenza (flu) shot. Children and adults need routine vaccinations at different ages. Talk to your provider to review your child’s immunization schedule and ensure that you’re up to date on your vaccines. Few vaccines are required, but several can protect you from illness that would ruin your trip.
In addition to routine vaccinations, you may need other vaccines to travel outside of the U.S. Providers recommend vaccines for travel to some countries. Most countries don’t ask to see proof of vaccination. But some countries require you to have a vaccine (such as the yellow fever vaccine) before you to enter, or to get a visa.
When you travel to other countries, you may expose yourself to diseases that aren’t common in the U.S. The required vaccinations for travel depend on many factors, including:
Depending on your destination and travel plans, you may need additional vaccines to protect you from disease. These may include:
Visit your healthcare provider at least one month before you travel to discuss the immunizations you should get. Your body needs about two weeks after getting a vaccine to build up immunity. So you should plan to get your vaccines several weeks before you travel.
Some vaccines have limited availability in the U.S, such as the yellow fever vaccine. If you’re traveling to an area where yellow fever is common, talk to your provider. You may need to schedule this vaccine months before your trip.
You can also visit a travel clinic before your trip. Providers in these clinics specialize in travel health and stock most vaccines. They also have updated immunization requirements based on where you’re going as well as other ideas to keep you healthy.
You do not need the COVID-19 vaccine to return to the United States after traveling abroad. But some countries do require proof that you received the COVID-19 vaccine before allowing you to enter.
COVID vaccine travel requirements vary. Countries all over the world have different requirements, guidelines and rules about who needs the vaccine to enter. Some countries may also require a negative COVID-19 test to enter. Ask your provider about the COVID vaccine and travel. They can give you up-to-date information about the latest requirements.
Vaccine side effects vary depending on the type of vaccine. Serious side effects and allergic reactions are rare. After getting a vaccine, tell your provider right away if you have signs of a reaction, including:
Before getting a vaccine, tell your provider about your health history. Some people should not get certain vaccines. Tell your provider if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or plan to become pregnant. You should also tell your provider if you have:
Some vaccines can interact with other drugs and vaccines. These interactions can be serious. Be sure to tell your provider about any medications you’re taking.
To prevent illness while on a trip, you should:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
By taking the time to plan ahead and schedule vaccinations before your trip abroad, you can keep yourself and your family healthy. Be sure to talk to your provider at least a month before traveling. Make sure you and your family have received all the routine vaccines and booster shots. Keep shot records for everyone. Before getting a vaccine, tell your provider about your health history and any medications you’re taking.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/21/2021.
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