Summer is here! While some children depart for adventures at camps, others will stay busy with activities locally, and some families will look forward to traveling- across state lines, or even to other countries.
For those traveling internationally, I know there’s much planning and preparation to be done. One factor that should not be an afterthought, however, are the vaccination requirements and recommendations for your destination. These may vary from country to country.
There are obviously too many specific requirements in each country, and even for different regions in each country, to review here. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a website where general vaccination requirements for each country are easily accessible, and the Health Department provides a hotline (1-800-469-4599) for questions about international travel. You may also make an appointment to get vaccinations with the Health Department.
Of course, I would recommend speaking with your pediatrician first; many times they will have the information you need to know before traveling. Your pediatrician will also be able to ensure your child is up to date on vaccines. Sometimes there are special vaccines that are only available at the Health Department, but your pediatrician may be able to provide the most common vaccines.
For enrollment in schools and for travel to other states, European countries and Canada, there are typically no additional vaccines other than what your pediatrician already gives. This is a series of vaccines in a specific order to prevent infections from Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib), Pneumococcal, Rotavirus, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella, Neisseria Meningitidis, and Influenza (annually).
Other vaccines that may be required in certain countries in Africa or South America or even parts of Asia and Europe may be available at the Health Department. Examples include yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and typhoid fever vaccines. Some vaccines need to be given in series, so start looking into health precautions months in advance of your travel date. Some countries will require medications to protect against malaria while you are visiting.
If there is an epidemic, a change in the order of a vaccine may be recommended. For example, the MMR contains protection against the measles. This vaccine is usually given around one year old and again at four years of age. However, during the measles outbreak in California in 2014, infants were given an extra vaccine at 6 months-11 months of age for earlier protection. Currently, children traveling to the area do not need this extra vaccine, but it is helpful to ask your pediatrician before traveling if you have any questions or if any recommendations have changed.
You can visit www.cdc.gov website and browse under “traveler’s health” to look up various health information for any country and to also read about special precautions and updates. For example, information on the Zika virus and Ebola are currently on the website. It also contains alerts on which areas are too risky to visit currently and others that require only more precautions.
It is impossible to go into all the details of what you may need for any specific destination, but I do want you to stay up to date with vaccinations required for our area (even as adults), and to research individually and discuss with your physician any additional medications, vaccines, or precautions you may need to consider as part of your travel preparation this summer. This will ensure a more care-free, relaxing time once you reach your vacation spot! Travel safely, and have fun!