Travel vaccinations

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Some trips outside the UK require vaccinations due to the serious diseases in other parts of the world.

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We’ve put together this guide to help answer all your questions on vaccinations.

What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a substance which makes the body produce antibodies against a certain illness or disease. It might be made from a very small dose of the disease or a synthetic version and is designed to make your body have an immune response (and produce antibodies) without causing the illness.

The kinds of routine vaccinations given in the UK include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • A six-in-one vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and hepatitis B
  • MenACWY vaccine, which protects against meningitis caused by meningococcal types A, C, W and Y bacteria
  • BCG vaccination against tuberculosis

These routine vaccinations don’t protect you from diseases you might catch when overseas – some of which can be very dangerous. For this reason, it’s important to check what vaccinations you may need for the country you’re going to.

You may be more at risk of developing illnesses if you’re:

  • Travelling in rural areas
  • Backpacking
  • Camping or staying in hostels

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you could be at greater risk of infection or complications from any diseases you get when travelling.

Before having any vaccinations, make sure your GP is aware if any of the following apply to you:

  • You're pregnant or think you might be pregnant
  • You're breastfeeding
  • You have an immune deficiency
  • You have any allergies

When should I get my travel injections?

Ideally you should make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic at least eight  weeks before you travel. Some vaccinations need multiple doses, and your body also needs to develop an immunity to the disease you’re being vaccinated against.

What vaccinations do I need?

We’ve outlined below some of the common countries people travel to and the vaccinations you need for each one. We’ve also looked at the diseases one by one and the countries and areas you’re most likely to find them.

For a full list of countries and the vaccinations you need for each, check out:

Where to get travel vaccines?

Before booking an appointment for vaccinations, you should call or visit your doctor’s surgery to check if you’re up to date with your routine vaccinations. If you have records of previous vaccinations for travelling abroad, let your doctor know.

The next step is to find out if your GP is signed up to offer free NHS travel vaccinations, as not all are. If they are, you should make an appointment. If they aren’t, you could try a private clinic or a pharmacy offering travel healthcare services.

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How much are travel vaccinations?

The amount your travel vaccinations cost depends on which country you’re travelling to and the diseases you need vaccinating against. Some are freely available on the NHS, whereas others have a cost associated with them.

Some GPs provide both free NHS vaccinations and other non-NHS vaccinations that have a charge associated. If your vaccinations aren’t available on the NHS, ask your doctor for the following details:

  • Written information on the necessary vaccines
  • How much the dose or course costs
  • Any other charges, such as for a certificate of vaccination

Free travel vaccinations available on the NHS include:

  • Polio (given as a combined diphtheria/tetanus/polio jab)
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Cholera

These diseases are vaccinated against for free as they’re the most risky to public health if they’re brought into the country.

Vaccinations you’ll need to pay for include:

Will my travel insurance cover me if I fall ill and haven’t had the relevant vaccine?

It’s important that you follow any advice given by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and your doctor about the places you’re visiting on your trip.

This includes getting all recommended vaccinations and inoculations and taking enough of your prescription medication with you to cover the time you’re away.

If having a vaccination would have prevented the illness, you won’t be covered by travel insurance.

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Travel vaccinations by country

There are many countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America where you’re recommended to have certain vaccinations before travelling to.

We’ve listed some of the countries most commonly asked about below. You can check what vaccinations you need for a particular country by checking NHS Fit for Travel but be sure to get advice from a medical professional if you’re at all unsure.

With all the countries listed below, you should first make sure your routine vaccinations recommended for daily life in Britain are up to date.

What vaccinations do I need for India?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies

For individuals at highest risk:

  • Cholera
  • Japanese Encephalitis

Yellow fever vaccination certificate requirements in India are very specific, and you can read more on the WHO website.

Do I need vaccinations for Mexico?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Tetanus

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Diphtheria
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid

For individuals at highest risk:

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis B

What jabs do I need for Thailand?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • Tetanus

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid

For individuals at highest risk:

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A
  • Japanese Encephalitis

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers nine months old or over arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission, or anyone who came via a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

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What vaccinations do I need for Vietnam?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid

For individuals at highest risk:

  • Cholera
  • Japanese Encephalitis

Do you need injections for Egypt?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • Tetanus

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers nine months old or over arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission (or Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia), or anyone who spent more than 12 hours in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission (or the additional countries mentioned above). Without a certificate, you’ll be kept in quarantine for up to six days after leaving the at-risk country.

What vaccinations do I need for South Africa?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • For individuals at highest risk:
  • Cholera

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers one year or over arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission, or anyone who spent more than 12 hours in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Do you need vaccinations for Cuba?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • None

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus

For individuals at highest risk:

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers nine months old or over arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission, or anyone who spent more than 12 hours in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

What vaccinations do I need for China?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • None

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Tick-borne Encephalitis
  • Typhoid

For individuals at highest risk:

  • Cholera
  • Japanese Encephalitis

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over nine-months-old arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission, or anyone who came via a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. (This doesn’t apply if you’re only travelling to Hong Kong and Macao.)

Do I need vaccinations for Japan?

Vaccines usually recommended:

  • None

Other vaccines to consider:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Tetanus
  • Tick-borne Encephalitis

For individuals at highest risk:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Japanese Encephalitis

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Travel vaccinations by disease

Cholera

A cholera vaccine isn’t needed for most travellers but is sometimes recommended for aid workers or people who’ll have limited access to medical treatment.

Cholera is generally an issue in areas with poor sanitation, such as:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • South and southeast Asia
  • The Middle East
  • Central America and the Caribbean

The vaccine is usually taken as a drink, in two doses one to six weeks apart. The final dose should be taken at least a week before you travel.

Diphtheria

The diphtheria vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus and polio and is sometimes known as the dtap vaccine or tdap vaccine. Although it’s routinely given to children in the UK, you may need a booster if it’s been more than 10 years and you’re travelling somewhere diphtheria is widespread:

  • Africa
  • South Asia
  • Former Soviet Union

Any boosters are usually given as a single 3-in-1 injection.

Hepatitis A

The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended when travelling to countries with poor hygiene and sanitation, such as:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Asia
  • The Middle East
  • South and Central America

A single Hepatitis A injection is given initially, with a second booster six to 12 months later. This should cover you for 20 years.

You can also get a combined Hepatitis A and B vaccine if required.

Hepatitis B

The Hepatitis B vaccine is usually offered to people travelling to places such as:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • The Middle East
  • Southern and eastern Europe

Hepatitis B is spread through blood and bodily fluids, so having sex and playing contact sports can increase your risk of getting it.

The Hepatitis B immunisation involves a course of three injections which can be spread over any period from three weeks to six months.

Japanese encephalitis

The Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is generally recommended for anyone planning to stay for at least a month in Asia and certain other areas such as the Pacific islands and northern Australia. It’s actually quite rare in Japan now due to immunisation programmes.

The Japanese encephalitis vaccination is generally made up of two injections, one 28 days after the other.

Meningococcal meningitis

The meningococcal meningitis vaccine is usually recommended for people travelling to parts of Africa or Saudi Arabia, particularly during Hajj or Umrah. It’s especially relevant if you’re travelling for a long time and have close contact with the local people.

The MenACWY vaccine, also known as the quadrivalent meningococcal meningitis vaccine, is a single injection given two to three weeks before you travel.

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Polio

The polio vaccine is routinely given to children in the UK as part of the diphtheria, polio and tetanus vaccination. However, if you’re travelling to places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan or Nigeria, and your last injection was more than 10 years ago, you may need a booster.

Rabies

Rabies is found all over the world – take a look at the list of countries for more information. The rabies vaccine is recommended if you’re travelling to an at-risk area, particularly if you’re:

  • Staying for at least a month
  • Unable to get quick access to medical facilities
  • Doing activities that increase your risk of rabies (for example cycling and running)

The rabies vaccination involves three injections over a period of 28 days.

Tetanus

The tetanus vaccine is available as part of a combined vaccination for diphtheria, tetanus and polio, which is routinely given to children in the UK.

A booster is usually only recommended if you’re travelling somewhere with limited medical services or it’s been 10 years since your last dose. 

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

The tick-borne encephalitis vaccine is usually recommended for people living or working in high risk areas or planning to hike or camp in these areas during spring or summer. High-risk areas include:

  • Central, eastern and northern Europe
  • Eastern Russia
  • Certain countries in east Asia such as China and Japan

The vaccination is made up of three injections. The first injection is given, followed by a second dose one to three months later and a third dose five to 12 months after that.

The full course TBE vaccine offers protection for up to three years, after which you’ll need a booster if required.

Tuberculosis (TB)

The tuberculosis or TB vaccine isn’t routinely given to children in the UK, but is given to those thought to be at increased risk of TB.

It’s recommended for those under 16 who’ll be living or working in a country where TB is common:

  • Bangladesh, Pakistan, India
  • Africa
  • Parts of south and southeast Asia
  • Parts of South and Central America
  • Parts of the Middle East

The tuberculosis vaccine is given as a single TB injection often known as a BCG.

Typhoid

The typhoid vaccine is advised if you’re travelling to areas where it’s common, such as:

  • Bangladesh, Pakistan, India
  • Africa
  • Parts of south and southeast Asia
  • Parts of South and Central America
  • Parts of the Middle East

It’s particularly important if you’re going to be staying or working with local people in areas where sanitation and food hygiene are poor.

Two vaccines are available: a single typhoid injection and a course of three capsules, both of which should ideally be taken a month before you travel. You’ll then need a booster every three years if you’re still at risk.

Yellow Fever

The yellow fever vaccine is recommended if you’re travelling to high-risk areas such as:

  • Tropical Africa
  • Central and South America

A single dose of the yellow fever injection taken at least 10 days before travelling is thought to offer lifelong protection – a booster is no longer necessary for most people.

You’ll be given an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis when you have your yellow fever jab. This is required for entry to certain countries, so make sure you keep this safe as it’s valid for life. 

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