Along with applying for a passport and booking a ticket, sorting out your travel vaccinations for Asia should be done early in the planning process. Some vaccinations require a set of injections spaced over time to reach full immunity -- get yourself to a travel clinic early!
If you have no prior vaccinations, see a travel clinic at least two months before your trip date. Don't despair if you don't have that much preparation time; in many instances you can receive the first of a set of vaccinations, then get the required booster once you return from your trip.
The information below is simply to help you in knowing what to expect, don't let it replace advice from a real travel doctor!
The Truth About Travel Vaccinations
Deciding which travel vaccinations to get before your trip to Asia basically comes down to your own personal decision. How much peace of mind are you willing to pay for? Travel vaccinations are not cheap or pleasant, and most travelers do just fine with only the most important immunizations.
While government websites and even travel doctors will typically err on the side of caution by recommending every possible vaccination, turning yourself into a human pincushion is both expensive and often unnecessary.
Required Vaccinations for Asia
If you are traveling from parts of Africa or South America, you may be required to show proof of yellow fever immunization before entering some countries in Asia. Other than that, there are no officially required vaccinations for Asia.
- See what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about travel vaccinations.
Deciding Which Travel Vaccinations You Need
Several factors should be taken into account to determine your potential exposure levels and ultimately which travel vaccinations you should receive to have peace of mind.
If a majority of your time in Asia will be spent in cities and in tourist areas, you probably only need the basic vaccinations. If you intend to volunteer in rural areas, trek through the jungle for weeks at a time, or will be in areas with little hope of quick medical aid, your travel vaccination needs are obviously different.
Many vaccinations last for years, if not a lifetime -- keep a spreadsheet or records of your vaccinations so that you do not forget later!
Typical Travel Vaccinations
The CDC recommends that all of your typical immunizations (i.e., the MMR vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella) are up to date before considering the following travel vaccinations. You probably received most of them during childhood, or if you served in the armed forces you may have received them as part of the usual military vaccinations.
Tetanus / Diphtheria
- Who: If you can't remember when you received your last tetanus shot, get one.
- How: A single injection (TDaP) typically combines both tetanus and diphtheria.
- Duration: A tetanus vaccination is good for 10 years.
- Who: Adults who received an oral dose as a child should get another oral dose as a booster.
- How: The polio vaccine can be taken orally (OPV) or as an injection (IPV) combined with other vaccinations such as tetanus and diphtheria.
- Duration: A single booster is good for lifetime.
Hepatitis A and B
- Who: All travelers to Asia should have their hepatitis immunization up to date.
- How: Hep A and B are sometimes combined into a single injection. A series of three injections are often spaced over months to reach full immunity, although receiving just two will provide protection until you return for a booster after your trip.
- Duration: If all three injections are received with correct timing, protection is good for at least 20 years. The CDC states that immunization could be good enough for life.
Typhoid fever is contracted through contaminated water. Dirty ice, fruit washed with dirty water, and wet plates in restaurants can all be possible culprits.
- Who: Typhoid is recommended for travelers to countries where the water is not safe to drink.
- How: Oral capsules are available in the US, as well as a single injection. Four capsules are required for immunity; you take a capsule every two days at home. A single injection can also provide immunity, however, for a shorter duration.
- Duration: The oral vaccine for typhoid provides immunity for five years; the injection only protects you for two years.
Japanese encephalitis is carried by mosquitoes in rural areas and causes brain swelling.
- Who: Your chances of encountering Japanese encephalitis are low. Only travelers who plan to live or travel in rural areas for extended amounts of time should consider this vaccination.
- How: Unfortunately, the Japanese encephalitis vaccination is one of the most expensive. Two injections are required spaced one month apart, and a possible third booster is needed one year later if you still have chance of exposure.
- Duration: The CDC does not have accurate data for how long immunization lasts. Even getting vaccinated does not guarantee full protection against Japanese encephalitis. Instead, learn how to avoid mosquito bites in the first place!
Rabies carries a zero percent chance of survival if contracted and you do not seek medical help. Fortunately, the rabies vaccine can be received after you think you have been exposed.
- Who: Travelers who intend to work with animals, spend significant time caving, or think they have an increased chance of being bitten should get vaccinated.
- How: A series of three vaccinations is needed; boosters are only required if you have been bitten.
- Duration: You only need to get vaccinated for rabies once, however, you should get booster shots if you are bitten.
Managing Risks While Traveling in Asia
Even receiving travel vaccinations for Asia does not provide a full guarantee that you are protected. Always purchase quality budget travel insurance -- a policy that includes emergency medical evacuation -- before your trip.
Read more tips for healthy travel.