A guide to vaccinations for travel
Any holiday requires careful planning so that it goes off without a hitch. Holiday insurance is a vital part of getting ready to go, and your policy can protect you if something goes wrong with your health whilst you’re away. Depending on where you’re travelling to, travel vaccinations might also be necessary to protect you against common and dangerous diseases whilst you’re away.
Navigating travel vaccinations doesn’t need to be intimidating. If you’re unsure about whether you need vaccinations or you just want to know what to expect, we’ve put together this guide to vaccinations for travel.
Why you may need to have vaccinations to travel to certain destinations
When you travel to other countries you may be exposed to diseases that are common overseas but that you’re unlikely to encounter in the UK. This can be dangerous. Because there’s little to no risk of exposure in the UK, vaccines against them are not routinely provided. However, you can arrange to have these vaccinations if you’re travelling to certain destinations. Not only does this protect your own health, but it also prevents you from spreading infectious diseases to others.
What’s required really does depend on where you’re going. You’re unlikely to require travel vaccines if you’re visiting a destination in Europe but are more likely to need them if you’re going somewhere further afield like countries in Africa or Asia. Even where you intend to travel within a country can affect which vaccines you need.
It’s also important to understand that some countries have entry requirements for vaccines for tourists. Whilst you should always take out travel insurance coverage and take all the normal necessary precautions, travel vaccinations can help your trip to run smoothly and protect your health.
How to find out what vaccinations you need
A common question amongst travellers is how to find out what vaccinations you need for your destination, when you should get them, and how. Because requirements vary by destination, it’s a good idea to check the NHS Fit for Travel website. You can search for the country you’re travelling to, find out about the recommended vaccines for this destination, and find more general advice for that country about the risks. The website also provides more general information about staying healthy whilst you travel.
You should always pay attention to the advice for the country you’re visiting, but generally, it’s a good idea to contact your GP practice around eight weeks before you’re due to travel. Many practices offer free NHS vaccines but there are some travel vaccines you might have to pay for, even if they are recommended for your destination. If you’re unable to get travel vaccinations from your GP practice you might need to visit a private clinic, pharmacy, or travel health clinic.
Your practice can check that your vaccination records are up to date and arrange an appointment for any new vaccinations you need. This is usually with a nurse who can also give you general advice about staying healthy whilst travelling. More information about making an appointment is available from the NHS.
The vaccinations you’ll need depend on your vaccination history and destination. However, there are some travel vaccinations that are particularly common.
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that’s highly contagious and can be potentially life-threatening. It can be spread by close contact with an infected person or by sharing items like towels or plates with an infected person. You’re likely to need vaccination against diphtheria if you travel to India, Indonesia, Africa, or South America.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body and be fatal. It is most commonly found in places with limited clean water and poor sanitation levels because it is spread through faeces and urine. Children tend to be at higher risk than adults but people of any age may contract typhoid in places such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Africa, and South America.
Hepatitis A is a serious liver infection. You can catch it in some parts of the world through unclean drinking water, food, or close contact with an infected person. The vaccine for hepatitis A is rarely offered routinely in the UK but you might need it if you’re travelling to the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, or Latin America.
Yellow fever is a disease transmitted by mosquitos that can lead to serious symptoms. The disease is found in Trinidad, some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and some parts of Central and South America. Some countries require you to have a certificate of vaccination against the disease for entry.
Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that’s caused when bacteria enter an open wound. Children are vaccinated against tetanus as part of the NHS’s childhood vaccination programme but it’s important to check with your GP when you’re planning to travel. If your last vaccination was more than 10 years ago or you’ve never completed a full course of vaccinations, a new vaccine might be required. Tetanus is found throughout the world.
Vaccinations for Covid-19
Covid-19 has certainly had an impact on travel health and before you travel it’s vital to check the requirements of the country you’re visiting. Each country sets its own rules about entry and vaccination requirements and it’s important to abide by these when you’re overseas. You may need proof of your vaccination status and some countries may require vaccination for entry. It’s also worth keeping in mind that requirements and rules can change quickly, so make sure you stay up to date when you’re preparing to travel.
Travel with confidence
Thinking about travel vaccinations might feel daunting but they shouldn’t ruin your plans. If you take advantage of the resources available to find out what you need, get your vaccinations in time, and get the right medical travel insurance, you can head off to your destination with confidence. Take a look at our travel insurance cover so that you can make the most of your next trip.