What You Need to Know About Travel Vaccines

If you’re traveling abroad this summer, especially to some of the more exotic destinations, it’s important to make sure you get the proper vaccines before you go.

That’s particularly true if you’re going to Africa or South America, where yellow fever has been popping up.

This past week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the U.S. is actually running out of the vaccine needed to prevent the yellow fever virus. The CDC expects to be fully out of this shot by midsummer.

To cover the shortage, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration will turn to a different yellow fever vaccine than the one they normally use. This other shot is already approved in 70 other countries around the world, and is believed to be just as safe and effective as the shot the U.S. normally relies on.

The alternative vaccine hasn’t actually been approved by FDA, so availability in the U.S. will be limited. That will make it tricky to get the shot in time for your upcoming trip to Africa or South America.

Yellow fever is spread through the Aedes aegypti mosquito (the same one that spreads Zika, dengue, and chikungunya). Although the virus was eradicated from much of the world in the mid-1900s, it has re-emerged in recent years in parts of Africa and South America, including, most recently, Brazil.

Of course, yellow fever isn’t the only virus you need to worry about if you’re traveling abroad. Here’s a look at all the shots you should consider before you go.

Yellow Fever

If you’re traveling to a country where yellow fever is spreading, or to a country that requires all visitors to have a yellow fever shot, keep the following things in mind.

1. Plan ahead. Unlike other travel shots, the yellow fever vaccine is only available at specially designated clinics. Because of the shortage, there will be far fewer clinics this summer than there normally are (just 250 instead of 4,000).

2. Don’t skip this shot. Yellow fever is a serious disease. The CDC estimates that it can be fatal in 15 to 20 percent of cases. Find out where the nearest clinic is and make sure you budget enough time to visit.

3. Take other protective measures. Vaccines are not the only bulwark against yellow fever. You can reduce your chances of catching this virus by applying an EPA-approved insect repellent to your exposed skin, and by spraying one on your clothing as well.

Routine Shots

Before any international trip you should make sure you are up to date on all of your routine vaccines: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP), varicella (chickenpox), polio, and your yearly flu shot. Some of these diseases are quite rare in the U.S., thanks to good vaccine coverage of children here. But the CDC says these same diseases can be much more common in other countries, including areas where you wouldn’t normally worry about travel-related illnesses. For example, in 2011, many American travelers were infected with measles during a large outbreak in Europe. Some of those…

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