When traveling to a new place, it is always a good idea to plan ahead to stay as healthy as possible and Ireland is no exception. On the one hand, Ireland is not notorious for any health concerns as frightening as Zika or Ebola. On the other hand, there are still certain basic vaccines which you should have up to date before traveling to Ireland. Of course, all of this is your own decision, as there are no required and controlled vaccinations for travelers entering at Irish ports or airports and you do not need to travel with proof of vaccine records to visit the Emerald Isle.
However, there are several routine vaccinations which are highly recommended by the international health community which should be taken before traveling to Ireland.
As any trip to a foreign country will expose you to a different level of risk to that experienced at home, your routine vaccines should be checked and, if necessary, be refreshed well before any travel. Ireland is not currently experiencing any specific outbreaks of common diseases, however, Europe and North America and both seeing a rise in measles cases which means prevention is truly the best plan of action before you travel.
Vaccines included in this group are the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, the varicella (or chickenpox) vaccine, and the polio vaccine. If you are in the right age bracket, you may also consider the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as a preventive measure beyond any travel plans.
It is also recommended that you had your annual flu shot - especially if you belong to any risk group, including older persons.
Additional Recommended Vaccines for Ireland
Your doctor will generally be able to tell you best what vaccines and medicines you may need while in Ireland. He or she will base the advice on where you are going, how long you will be going, what your plans are, and what they know about your lifestyle. A medical professional can also advise you about which medications may be available at local pharmacies and which you should plan to bring with you.
More than likely, one of the recommendations will be a vaccination against hepatitis:
- Hepatitis A - outbreaks of hepatitis A are constantly recorded throughout the world, sometimes even in countries considered "low risk" such as Ireland. An infection with hepatitis A in Ireland may occur through contaminated food or water in Ireland.
- Hepatitis B - the risk of being infected with hepatitis B is, in some demographics, higher. As the disease can be transmitted through sexual contact, as well as through blood, or contaminated instruments breaking your skin. If you are likely to have sex with a new acquaintance in Ireland or are planning to get a tattoo (or piercing), get vaccinated. If you consider yourself outside this demographic, remember that any invasive medical procedures bear the risk of an infection with hepatitis B as well, and you, unfortunately, cannot plan for these in emergencies.
Please take note that having unprotected sex in Ireland with a stranger is not recommended anyway - the prevalence of many sexually transmitted diseases in Ireland is relatively high. And don't believe the rumors: condoms are widely available in Ireland, without any problems.
A Rabies Vaccination
Ireland is virtually rabies-free, but the deadly disease (almost certainly lethal in humans) is still present on Irish soil. Fortunately only in bats. This will not be a major risk to most travelers, as bats tend to leave humans quite alone in most circumstances.
A rabies vaccine is, however, recommended for members of these groups:
- Those involved in activities that have a risk of bat bites - especially some adventure travel and specifically caving;
- those working with or around bats, like wildlife professionals, researchers, and zookeepers.
When to Get Your Vaccines
Again, your doctor will know and be able to tell you best, what vaccines you should take how far in advance - talk to your doctor as soon as you are making plans to visit Ireland, not the day before you go because some vaccines require a few weeks to enable you to build up immunity. He or she will then be able to provide the vaccines on a timescale that keeps you safe during your travels.
Whenever possible, the recommended intervals, especially between different vaccines or doses, should be adhered to. Only this regime will allow time for any antibodies to be produced. Also, any reaction to the vaccine needs to subside, to be sure the vaccine has been effective. Please note that there are also risk groups that may not be vaccinated on a routine basis, so further tests may be needed.