In the midst of planning flights, deciphering train and boat schedules, or seeking out accommodations for your next family trip, another deliberation may be the need for additional vaccinations for yourself and your children. Currently, the only vaccine required to enter certain countries is the yellow fever vaccine. All other vaccines are only recommended. Nonetheless, there are various considerations that parents should take note of depending on the region of the world you will be visiting.
Below are some general immunization tips and resources for children living in the United States who will be going on a trip overseas:
- Before your child travels abroad, make sure all recommended childhood immunizations are up to date.
- Talk with your pediatrician about other immunizations that may be needed, depending on the parts of the world to which you and your child will be traveling, your planned activities, and the length of your stay.
- Some international travel recommends parents consider additional vaccines to prevent hepatitis A, yellow fever, meningococcal disease, typhoid fever, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis:
- A vaccine for yellow fever is the only one required by some nations, particularly in rural parts of South America and sub-Saharan Africa, before allowing entry into the country. If possible, however, immunization for yellow fever should not be given to children younger than 9 months to reduce the risk of serious side effects, including vaccine-associated encephalitis or brain swelling.
- If a child is traveling to a part of the world where there are rabid animals and s/he is likely to be taking part in activities in which s/he might encounter rabid animals, you should consider rabies immunization. The rabies vaccine is given in a series of 3 shots.
- The Japanese encephalitis virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, is prevalent in parts of southeast Asia, China, eastern Russia, and the Indian subcontinent. A 3-dose vaccine is available and should be considered for people who will spend extended time in high-risk areas. There is no information on its safety and effectiveness in children younger than 1 year.
- Travelers to tropical and subtropical areas often risk exposure to malaria, dengue fever, other vectorborne pathogens, leptospirosis, diarrhea, and other diseases for which vaccines are not available.
- For travelers to areas with endemic malaria, antimalarial chemoprophylaxis and insect precautions are vitally important.
- Attention to hand hygiene and choosing safer foods and beverages for consumption can reduce travelers’ risk of acquiring other communicable diseases.
- The influenza vaccine may be recommended, depending on travel destinations, the season of travel, duration of travel, and other factors. However, the strains that cause the flu in the United States may be different than those in other countries. This means that the composition of the vaccine needed for protection in other parts of the world may be different from the one generally offered in the United States.
Some additional online vaccination resources for parents are:
- Alternatives (Homeopathic Remedies) to Travel Vaccines
- American Academy of Pediatrics Red Book 2009 Committee on Infectious Diseases (Subscription Cost)
- Centers for Disease Control (Listing of Recommended Immunizations by Country)
- Washington DC Area Residents: Washington Travel Clinic