Required and Recommended Vaccinations for China Travel

Doctor in discussion with patient in examination room
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Obviously, if you're just traveling to China, it's a different story than if you're moving to China. So read this article with that in mind. When traveling to China, your physician will help you understand the risks and you can decide what kind of vaccinations you might decide you'd like to have, based on this advice.

If your plan involves moving to China or a longer stay, say over three months, than the situation is slightly different and you will want to take this into account. Some areas are at higher risk for certain diseases than other areas. So you'll want to find out about the specifics of where you will be going before you begin discussing what you need with your doctor.

Required Vaccinations

For visitors and tourists to China, there are no required vaccines. This means that by law, there are no vaccinations that you must get before you visit. However, physicians and the Center for Disease Control do advise to make sure that all travelers are up to date on their routine immunizations.

Routine Immunizations

The following vaccines are recommended to be current before traveling to China:

  • Tetanus-diphtheria (DPT)
  • Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Hepatitis A is recommended for all travelers over 12 months of age to China.
  • Typhoid is recommended especially if you’ll be in rural areas where you may eat or drink outside large restaurants and hotels where you may come into contact with contaminated water or food.

Possible Immunizations That You May Need

Your physician might have you consider the following vaccines if your stay in China is longer than a short two-week visit.

  • Yellow fever is required by Chinese law only if you are arriving from an infected area such as Africa.
  • Japanese encephalitis is recommended for longer-term travelers, especially children, who are susceptible to mosquito bites and will be outdoors during mosquito season (which can last from May to November in southern China).
  • Hepatitis B is also recommended for longer-term visitors/residents as it is very common throughout China.
  • Rabies is recommended for any traveler who may come in contact with or handle animals, especially dogs. Rabies is common in China while the vaccination is not.

The vaccination information is a collection of information that can be found on the Center for Disease Control and MD Travel Health specifically for China.

Staying Healthy While Traveling

While vaccines can help prevent your contracting serious diseases, they are not going to block against all germs you will come across in a new country. And since you'll be exposed to things you aren't used to, you'll need to be careful.

You should certainly be careful when it comes to drinking water. Make sure you drink only bottled or boiled water. Even when brushing teeth, don't forget to use the free bottled water that all hotels in China supply. And if there's not enough, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for more from housekeeping or reception.

It's also important not to push yourselves and your family too hard when it comes to the agenda for sightseeing, especially when you have small children along or when you are traveling in the summer months. Jet lag can be tough but if you're not rested, then you won't enjoy your trip very much. If you're up early, get out and do things but then head back to the hotel for a nap to let everyone catch up on sleep.

It is very helpful to have a small first-aid travel kit along so that you have some basics with you and won't need to go navigating pharmacies or drug-stores in a foreign land.

And finally, a last word of advice is to wash your hands often! This is your first defense, and often your best. You'll be touching and holding things covered with germs you're not used to. Bring along hand sanitizer and wipes and keep your hands clean to keep healthy.

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