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Heading out of the country? It’s a good idea to check with your doctor to see if you need any vaccines or booster shots before you leave.

Give yourself plenty of time, since it can take as many as 4-6 weeks for vaccines to take full effect, and some may involve more than one shot.

Of course, you’ll want to be up to date on all the usual vaccines you should get for everyday life in the U.S. Those diseases are also in other countries, so if you protect yourself at home, you shouldn’t get them when you're away.

What Else Do You Need?

The shots you should get depend on where you're going.

For instance, if you're going to certain parts of Africa and South America, you must get vaccinated against yellow fever.

But if you're going to countries like Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, you probably won’t need any extra vaccines.

If you plan to travel to a part of the world where malaria is a possibility, your doctor will give you medicine to help prevent that. It’s not a vaccine, but you'll need it for protection. Use all of your anti-malaria prescription, including the pills you take when you come back home.

Check the “Travelers’ Health” section of the CDC’s web site to see exactly what you need for your destination. You can search based on where you're going and any special needs you may have, such as whether you take medicines that affect your immune system, or you’re pregnant -- or maybe you're traveling on a mission trip or for disaster relief, which will take you to an area with few medical resources. The site also includes a “healthy travel packing list” based on what country you'll visit.

WebMD Medical Reference

Make your flu shot make a world of difference.

  • You can help provide a lifesaving vaccine to a child in need through the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign.