Travel Vaccines: Which Ones Do You Need?

When my husband and I were planning a trip to South Africa, we visited a travel clinic to find out which vaccinations and other health precautions are recommended. For travel to South Africa, we received the recommended vaccination against yellow fever and were prescribed anti-malaria medication to be taken at a specific time in advance of our trip. We were also given boosters to bring us up-to-date on our routine vaccinations.

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Talk to your doctor before traveling to make sure your vaccines are up-to-date.

The yellow fever vaccination wasn’t required since there’s no risk for the disease in South Africa specifically, and our safari guide told us the anti-malaria pills weren’t necessary since we were there in the winter. Nevertheless, we were happy to have the peace of mind.

But the one thing that made our trip to the travel clinic completely worthwhile was that they gave us ciprofloxacin – a drug used to treat bacterial infections. We were told only to take it in the event of a serious illness, and during our time in Cape Town, the time to take it presented itself as I was feverish and bed-ridden for a full day. Luckily, it worked like a charm and saved us a trip to the hospital.

While a debilitating bacterial infection was very unpleasant, to be afflicted with a more serious disease because of being unvaccinated would have been much worse and, in some cases, life threatening. Before traveling to a foreign country, be sure to look into which vaccinations are recommended for your destination. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a great resource for country-by-country information. Depending on the country, there may be routine, recommended, or required vaccinations.

Then make an appointment with your doctor or a travel health clinic at least 4 to 6 weeks ahead of your trip to receive your inoculations and discuss other preventative health measures, as well as what to do if you do fall ill or are injured abroad.

The U.S. State Department is another valuable resource for information on political climates, how Americans may stay safe abroad, and information on recommended doctors and medical centers in the country you plan to visit.

To find a doctor for your travel health visit, use the Vitals Doctor Finder (

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