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Immunizations for travel

David O Freedman, MD
Karin Leder, MBBS, FRACP, PhD, MPH, DTMH
Section Editor
Peter F Weller, MD, MACP
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH


International travelers are frequently at risk of exposure to infectious pathogens and should seek advice about immunizations and other necessary prophylaxis prior to departure [1]. In preparation for a trip, individuals should arrange a pretravel consultation with either a specialized travel clinic or a primary care practice with expertise in travel medicine [2]. The traveler should come to the visits with a record of prior immunizations and an itinerary.

Immunization needs are based on the traveler's prior immunizations, health conditions, and likely exposures while traveling (table 1). Those exposures depend upon the countries and regions to be visited and on the nature of potential exposures to infectious agents. For example, travelers with short-term tourism itineraries may have different requirements from those with longer-term occupational exposures. A pretravel consultation enables updating of routine immunizations to protect against illness due to infections for which there is an increased risk of exposure during travel (such as diphtheria, measles, and varicella) [3].

Information on the indications, dosing, side effects, timing, and contraindications for immunizations in travelers are provided by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a second-yearly publication, Health Information for International Travel [4], with ongoing updates in an online version. The World Health Organization (WHO) also has online information that includes vaccines or dosing regimens approved outside the United States [5]. Information may be found on the CDC website and the WHO website. Guidance may also be found via GlobalTravEpiNet (GTEN), which has web-based tools for providers and patients based on CDC recommendations.

Issues related to immunizations for travelers are reviewed here. Other travel-related medical issues and measures to prevent malaria are discussed separately. (See "Travel advice" and "Prevention of malaria infection in travelers".)


A standard immunization form should be part of the patient's medical record. Details to be recorded include vaccine type, dose, date of administration, manufacturer, lot number, and site of administration. It is also important to document if a patient declines to receive any recommended vaccine.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 28, 2017.
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