Today’s post is by History of Vaccines intern Alexandra Linn.
As summer heats up, families, vacationers, and honeymooners are rushing to travel clinics for their last-minute shots before embarking on their adventures. Here’s a quick guide to what you should keep in mind when getting any needed travel vaccines:
Go Early – Vaccines require a certain amount of time to build up immunity in your body to protect against disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you make an appointment 4-6 weeks before your scheduled departure. Moreover, many vaccines such as the hepatitis B vaccine and typhoid fever vaccine require multiple doses that must be spaced out for maximum effectiveness. Even if you don’t have 4 weeks, you should still visit a clinic to talk about your options – some protection is always better than no protection. Plan ahead and don’t get stuck without enough time to fully benefit from your vaccines.
Do Your Research Ahead of Time – Different vaccines are required or recommended based on where and when you travel and exactly what you will be doing in that part of the world. Currently the only required vaccination is the yellow fever vaccine if you are travelling to certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa. It is also recommended for many regions of South America. But remember, even within these countries recommendations can differ – for example if you are taking a beach getaway to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yellow fever should not be a problem, whereas if you decide to go farther inland to take a trip down the Amazon River, protection against yellow fever is recommened. In countries where the yellow fever vaccine is required, you may be expected to show proof of vaccination for entry. A list of these countries can be found on the CDC website under yellow fever. If you’d like more information on the yellow fever virus and disease, check out our article History of Vaccines article on the topic.
Ask for an International Certification of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) or a “Little Yellow Booklet” – When you get vaccinated for diseases specific to certain parts of the world, especially in the case of yellow fever, it is always good to carry along proof of your immunization status. A travel clinic should give you a small yellow booklet that represents an international certification of vaccination. This booklet is used throughout the world and will help ease immigration and border crossings. It’s even small enough to fit in a passport case, enabling you to have all your travel documents in one place. You should receive one of these booklets at your travel clinic, but make sure to request one if it is not initially provided.
Happy travels from the History of Vaccines project staff!
All info from CDC Travelers’ Health, Vaccinations