ID Consult

Get patients vaccinated: Avoid unwelcome international travel souvenirs


Summer officially began June 21, 2019, but many of your patients already may have departed or will soon be headed to international destinations. Reasons for travel are as variable as their destinations and include but are not limited to family vacations, mission trips, study abroad, parental job relocation, and visiting friends and relatives. The majority of the trips are planned at least 3 months in advance; however, for many travelers and their parents, they suddenly get an aha moment and realize there is/are specific vaccines required to obtain a visa or entry to their final destination. Unfortunately, too much emphasis is focused on required vaccines. The well-informed traveler knows that they may be exposed to multiple diseases and many are vaccine preventable. Let me help you get your patients prepared no matter the destination so that they return home with only fond memories of their international adventure.


The accompanying table lists vaccines traditionally considered to be travel vaccines. Several require multiple doses administered over 21-28 days to provide protection. Others such as cholera and yellow fever must be completed at least 10 days prior to departure to be effective. Typhoid has two formulations: The oral and injectable typhoid vaccines should be completed 1 and 2 weeks, respectively, prior to travel. Several vaccines have age limitations. Routine immunization of all infants against hepatitis A was recommended in 2006. Depending on your region, there may be adolescents who have not been immunized. Fortunately, hepatitis A vaccine works immediately.

One of the challenges you face is identifying someone in your area that provides travel medicine advice and immunizations to children and adolescents. Most children and teens travel with their parents, but today many adolescents travel independently with organized groups. Most of the vaccines listed are not routinely administered at your office, yet you most likely will be the first call a parent makes seeking travel advice.

Let me tell you about a few vaccines in particular.

Japanese encephalitis

This is most common cause of encephalitis in Asia and parts of the western Pacific. Risk generally is limited to rural agricultural areas where the causative virus is transmitted by a mosquito. Fatality rates are 20%-30%. Among survivors, 30%-50% have significant neurologic, cognitive, and psychiatric sequelae. Candidates for this vaccine are long-term travelers and short-term travelers with extensive outdoor rural activities.

Meningococcal conjugate vaccines (MCV4)

All travelers to the Hajj Pilgrimage (Aug. 9-14, 2019) and/or Umrah must show proof of immunization. Vaccine must be received at least 10 days prior to and no greater than 5 years prior to arrival to Saudi Arabia. Conjugate vaccine must clearly be documented for validity of 5 years. For all health entry requirements, go to


The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends all infants 6-11 months old receive one dose of MMR prior to international travel regardless of the destination. This should be followed by two additional countable doses. All persons at least 12 months of age and born after 1956 should receive two doses of MMR at least 28 days apart prior to international travel.


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