Need Foreign Travel Vaccines? Plan ahead!

October 31, 2019

For More Information Contact                                                                                  

  • Shirley Miller, public health educator senior, LENOWISCO Health District, 276-328-1916


(WISE, Va.) — Visiting another country can put you at risk for diseases not normally found in the U. S. Getting the right vaccines is one of the most effective things you can do to protect your health while traveling abroad. Since most vaccines must be given ahead of time to provide the best protection, plan to get travel vaccines at least six weeks before your trip. Clinics have different types and amounts of vaccines so plan ahead and check with your local health department (below).

What vaccines do I need before I travel?

  •  Make sure you are up to date on your routine vaccines. Diseases that are rare in the U.S., like measles, may be more common in other countries.
  • You may need other vaccines depending on your destination, your medical history, your planned activities and other health concerns. Discuss your itinerary with your health care provider to make sure you get any destination-specific vaccines and medicines, such as for yellow fever or malaria.

What is the difference between routine, required, and recommended vaccines?

  • Routine vaccines: recommended for everyone in the U.S. based on their age, health condition or other risk factors. These include childhood vaccines you get before starting school, plus those recommended for adults and recommended at certain intervals throughout life.
  • Required vaccines: required to enter a country, based on that country’s government regulations. Vaccine requirements can change at any time, but the most common required vaccine is yellow fever vaccine.
  • Recommended vaccines: protect travelers’ health, even if they aren’t required by the destination country. They depend on traveler’s age and health, and the itinerary.

Where can I go to get travel vaccines?

If you are traveling to a country with health risks similar to those in the U.S., your health care provider, local health department or pharmacy may have the vaccines you need. Travelers may need to see a travel medicine specialist, if visiting several countries or countries with many health risks, or if you have a pre-existing health condition or are planning higher risk activities or prolonged stays.

How far ahead should I get any needed travel vaccines?

Make an appointment at least six weeks in advance of your travel.

  • Your body needs time to build up immunity. Many vaccines take two weeks to build an immune response and some vaccines must be completed before you begin steps to reduce risk of other illness (like completing certain vaccines prior to beginning measures to reduce risk of contracting malaria).
  • Many vaccines require multiple doses on a schedule; you may need several weeks to get all the doses you need.
  • You may need to locate a travel medicine specialist or clinic.
  • Yellow fever vaccine is currently available only at a limited number of clinics in the U.S., and if required you must get it at least 10 days before travel. Cholera and rabies vaccines may, at times, also have limited availability.

How long does immunity from travel vaccines last? When do I need to get a booster dose?

It depends on the vaccine. When visiting your health care provider, be sure to bring your vaccine records.

Can I get travel vaccines in a country outside the U.S.?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends NOT getting travel vaccines in another country.

  • Most vaccines need to be administered ahead of time to give you full protection against a disease.
  • Vaccines in other countries may be different from the ones in the U.S. and may be less effective.
  • Sterility of the vaccination process may be less stringent in some countries outside the U.S.
  • If cost is a concern, check with your local health department. It may have a travel medicine clinic, and may cost less than a private doctor.

For more information about foreign travel requirements and services, contact:

  • Lee County Health Department at 276-346-2011;
  • Scott County Health Department at 276-386-1312; or
  • Wise County/City of Norton Health Department at 276-328-8000.