I am aware of the heated discussion on children vaccination and its possible link to autism. I am one of those parents who have chosen to vaccinate my kids and I won’t go into detail about my reasons. Suffice it to say that my kids’ shots are up-to-date. But funnily enough, not mine. I had my shots as a kid but my mom did not keep a record like what I am doing now for my kids. I never gave my vaccinations much thought until I started travelling globally about 15 years ago and found out that certain countries may have their own set of required inoculations before you are allowed entry. Then came motherhood, resulting in cutting down on travelling to exotic places. And then of course I forgot about vaccinations again. At least mine. While I made sure my kids follow the vaccination schedule on the dot, I misplaced my own yellow vaccination booklet.
Recently, however, I was forced to face the fact that I, too, need inoculations, basically because we are travelling to Southern Africa for our summer vacation. Luckily, I realized my negligence thanks to the timely reminder of the travel agency, with still enough time to spare, before the trip and before the doctors go on summer vacation themselves.
So that is why I wrote this post about adult immunizations and traveling. Each country has its own set of recommended inoculations for its adult citizens. In the US, it is the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) who comes up with the recommendations for routine vaccinations (see CDC Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule 2009 here).
In addition, some countries require specific immunizations for people coming into the country. There are recommended as well as required vaccinations as discussed below.
The International Health Regulations (IHR), an instrument of the World Health Organization recommends countries to require yellow fever vaccination for people travelling to sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America where it occurs. Yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes. In the same way, many countries require yellow fever vaccination when you are coming from the yellow fever endemic regions. I had my yellow fever shot 12 years ago when travelling to Amazon. With my immunization, I received a yellow card, an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) for Yellow Fever where other immunizations could also be recorded. Immunization should be renewed every 10 years. However, since I am coming from Europe and going to South Africa, two regions where yellow fever is not endemic, I do not need a new yellow fever shot for now.
During the annual Islam pilgrimage the Hajj, the government of Saudi Arabia requires that pilgrims are vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia but not for the Hajj and not in the pilgrimage area so I didn’t have to have this shot.
In addition, other vaccinations are recommended depending on where you are going to. The CDC provides a list of destinations and the recommended immunizations needed.
Vaccinations for these two forms of hepatitis are recommended if you are travelling to an area with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A and B virus infections. Hepatitis A is contracted through food and water while hepatitis B through blood and body fluids. Immunizations are normally valid for at least 5 years depending on the type of vaccine used. I had my first shot a couple of weeks ago and will have another one before departure.
This is recommended for those who are going to Southern Africa – and that’s where I will be. Exposure is through food and water.
Other recommended shots are for rabies and polio but only under special circumstances and depending on destinations.
The International Health Regulations (IHR) are an international legal instrument that is binding on 194 countries across the globe, including all the Member States of WHO. Their aim is to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.
It came into force in 2007, and aside from vaccination recommendations, also requires countries
- to report outbreaks, epidemics and other public health events to the WHO
- to step up public health prevention, surveillance, and response.
For more information about immunizations and prophylaxis for travel, check out CDC’s Traveler’s Health.
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