When we travel abroad we have to ensure that we meet the health standards of the countries we are heading to. Given that each country has a different health policy, it is normal for the vaccination policies to vary too.

That is why when you head somewhere it might well turn out that you are missing a mandatory for the destination country vaccine that is ad lib in your land of residence. Another case might be that the land you are heading to has viruses or diseases you need to be immunized against. In both cases, here is some useful information on vaccines.

The importance of vaccines

First of all it is important to know what the actual significance of vaccines is. One such is building immunity in a nation to prevent diseases from spreading. This is called ‘herd immunity’ and its efficiency is aimed in the community as a whole. In simple words this is building an overall immunity in a society to a certain disease. The disease, of course, could vary from nation to nation, depending on the climate, the location of the country and the possible threats.

Other types of vaccines are aimed at eradicating endemic diseases such as smallpox, measles, mumps and rubella. Though the various vaccinations are required in many countries, some people may be exempt due to religious, personal or philosophical reasons, thou this is not a general rule and depends on the national treatment of the vaccine policy.

Vaccination – how and why

Ideally, you should check with your doctor 4 to 6 weeks before you head up for your travel. First of all you should check whether you have all the vaccines and immunization required by your national health service and second you should research if there are any recommended or mandatory vaccines for the place you are heading to.

The routine vaccines need to be updated so you should go through your immunization history with your general practitioner. The most common routine vaccines include, but are not limited to, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and in some cases - a yearly flu shot.

Other common diseases that you should consider getting a vaccine against are:

    • Hepatitis A. There are occasional outbreaks of the disease and it might occur even at low-risk places such as the USA. The disease could be transmitted through contaminated food and water;
    • Hepatitis B. The disease is generally transmitted through sexual contact, but contaminated needles could also be the culprit;
    • Rabies – in different countries rabies is present in different species, so it is always advisable to have this vaccine, especially if you are planning to travel outside urban areas.
    • Yellow fever and malaria – the governments of many countries that are free from these diseases require document proving vaccination against them only from travelers coming from countries where the diseases exist.

Routine vaccines:

Tetanus and Diphtheria
these diseases could affect everyone. Tetanus is an infection of the central nervous system caused by bacterial infection of open wounds. Diphtheria is an infectious illness that affects the breathing process. Prevention includes usually a childhood dose that is renewed every 10 years.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
this group of contagious diseases endangers anyone above the age of 18 who was born after 1956. There is a triple vaccine that is called MMR. It is usually applied to children when they are 15 months old, with a follow up in the age between 4 and 6. It is important to know that people that received their initial MMR vaccination before 1980 should be vaccinated anew before international travel.

this viral disease could cause damages to the nervous system that could lead to paralysis. Through the immunization the disease has been eradicated in certain parts of the world. Nevertheless, if you are travelling to a place where polio still exists, a vaccine against it is the smart thing to do.

though compared to the aforementioned diseases flu is relatively harmless and simply unpleasant, it is still a good idea to get a flu vaccine each year. Other vaccines that you should check

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the only vaccination that are nowadays required from travelers upon international movement from some countries are vaccines against yellow fever, especially if the traveler is coming from a country where the sickness is present or is moving to such a place. Thou not always mandatory, the yellow fever immunization is highly advisable when heading to a place where yellow fever occurs.

Another disease that could sporadically have endemic outbreaks and could thus necessitate mandatory immunization is cholera. The best option is for you to check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are heading to, to see whether you are required or recommended to make a cholera immunization.

Still another immunization that shouldn’t be overlooked when travelling abroad, though not mandatory required, is meningitis. Vaccination against the disease that is still active in some parts of the world is especially recommended to children in the 11-18 age group, as they are much more susceptible to this infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord.

What happens when immunization policies are not met

If you fail to comply with the vaccination policies of certain countries, you could be denied entrance, placed under quarantine or vaccinated on the border/ at the airport. In order to prove that you have the required immunization, you have to have it documented in an International Certificate of Vaccination, a.k.a. Yellow Card.


Health is among the number one priorities of people around the globe. Though nowadays vaccines are broadly debated and often criticized, they shouldn’t be easily disregarded as a health measure. . So if you are heating the road take the time to ensure your prevention from diseases. Research the obligatory (if any) and recommended immunizations for the country you are heading to and consult your physician. Get your vaccines noted in your Yellow Card and enjoy your travel around the world.

Last modified: 26.03.2018, edited by: Nils