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Do Kids Need Vaccines Before Traveling?

If your family plans to travel abroad or internationally, you and your kids might need to get certain vaccines. Different countries have different health risks and may require specific vaccines. For example, a family will need the yellow fever vaccine if they're traveling to certain parts of Africa or South America.

To find out which vaccines your family needs, ask your doctor or visit the CDC's travelers' health website for a list of recommended or required vaccines (you can search by destination). You might need to visit a clinic that specializes in travel medicine if your doctor doesn’t stock the vaccines you need.

Most vaccines should be given at least 1 month before travel, so try to schedule a doctor's visit 4–6 weeks before your trip. This gives plenty of time for the vaccines to take effect, and allows for vaccines to be given over a period of days or weeks, if necessary. But even if you're leaving in less than 4 weeks, you should still make an appointment, as kids might still benefit from shots or medicines.

Depending on your travel plans, your doctor may recommend that besides routine vaccines, you and/or your kids be vaccinated against:

  • typhoid
  • yellow fever
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • tick-borne encephalitis
  • rabies
  • cholera

All kids get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12–15 months of age, and the hepatitis A vaccine between their first and second birthdays. But any who will travel outside the United States before that can get these vaccines as early as 6 months of age. They will still need the routine vaccines after their first birthday.

Preteens and teens routinely get meningococcal vaccines, but children as young as 2 months old also can get them (depending on the vaccine brand) if they will be traveling. They'll still need to get the routine vaccines later according to the vaccine schedule.

Adults who were fully vaccinated against polio as children can get a booster dose if they will travel to an area where there is a high risk of catching polio.

Kids of any age can get malaria, so if you're traveling to a country with a malaria risk, talk to your doctor about antimalarial drugs.

An updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for all adults and kids ages 6 months and up, as is the yearly flu vaccine. Traveling can involve exposure to crowded airports and vacation destinations, which makes the spread of respiratory viruses much more likely. That's why experts strongly recommend that people make sure they're up to date on COVID-19 and flu vaccines before travel.

And if you're traveling internationally, be sure to take your kids' vaccine records with you when you go.