What Vaccines Do Travelers Need?

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on March 08, 2024
2 min read

Heading out of the country? It’s a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist 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 need 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’ll also be covered while you’re away.

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

No matter where you’re going, check to make sure you’re up to date on all routine vaccines: measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, hep B, the annual flu vaccine, and COIVID-19.

Many travelers should get vaccines for hep A and typhoid. And many other vaccines are given based on your travel destination. 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 Western 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 before you depart on your trip as well as when you come back home.

Also, If you are traveling to places where infections from mosquitos -- such as Zika or dengue -- are common, you should follow steps to prevent mosquito bites. There aren’t vaccines for those illnesses.

You can check the “Travelers’ Health” section of the CDC’s website 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.