How early should I get vaccinated if I'm planning international travel?

The period between vaccination and travel may vary with the area of proposed travel and appropriate vaccination, but it is always a good idea to plan ahead and be prepared. Some vaccines (such as yellow fever or typhoid) may provide some immunity within 10 to 14 days prior to exposure, but most vaccinations require more than one administration and it is recommended to complete as many of the scheduled doses prior to travel as possible, which can sometimes take several months before developing a matured immune response.

In some cases when there is insufficient time to complete a vaccination series prior to departure, some people may be given immunoglobin (antibodies) to help boost immunity and prevent the illness. Anyone planning on travelling internationally should schedule a medical appointment to review his or her current immunizations, and to review disease risks in the planned area of travel. This is particularly important in areas where proof of vaccination may be required to travel there, such as certain locations in Africa where yellow fever is endemic.
According to Zachary Rubin, MD, director of the Santa Monica-UCLA Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine, "People booking a journey to a developing or otherwise exotic locale should plan ahead to make sure they don’t put themselves at risk for infections endemic to that region." Part of the planning involves education on the risks, what to bring and what to avoid. Prospective travelers should consult with their doctors to ensure that their general health is good.

Says Lynn Stephens, a nurse-practitioner with the Travel Medicine Program at the UCLA Family Health Center in Santa Monica, "One of the most important reasons for planning ahead is to ensure there is time to obtain any necessary vaccinations. Getting the vaccines four to six weeks before travel allows time for them to take effect and for people to get over any side effects they might experience from the vaccines."

Continue Learning about Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines are commonly given to children in the form of a shot to help prevent serious diseases like measles and mumps. Vaccines are developed using either dead strains of a disease, weakened strains, or strains of a different dise...

ase. As adults, we receive flu vaccines or may need a booster of childhood vaccines to retain immunity. Travelers may receive vaccines either as a condition of entry to a country, or on recommendation of health officials. Generally there is little or no reaction to a vaccine, but in some cases the vaccine may cause an allergic reaction or a temporary, mild illness. Some vaccines are not safe for pregnant women, so it’s important to check with a healthcare professional.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.