Before you travel internationally, you need to make sure you’re up-to-date on all your vaccinations. Here’s what you need to know about proving your vaccination status for travel.
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It’s important to know what type of vaccine documentation is required for international travel. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccines. These vaccines include, but are not limited to, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
For some destinations, travelers may also be required to get specific vaccines and take other measures to protect themselves from diseases. It’s always best to check the WHO website and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for the most current recommendations before you book your trip.
The following table lists some of the more common travel vaccines and answers some frequently asked questions about each one.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.
What is vaccination?
Vaccination is a method of preventing diseases by administering a vaccine that contains weakened or killed microorganisms that cause the disease. Vaccines stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the microorganisms, and they provide immunity against infections.
There are two types of vaccine: inactivated (killed) vaccines, which are made frommicroorganisms that have been grown in laboratories and then killed; and live attenuated vaccines, which are made from microorganisms that have been weakened in the lab so that they can no longer cause disease.
The history of vaccines
Since the early 1800s, vaccines have been used to prevent diseases. Vaccination (sometimes called immunization) involves using a weakened form of a virus or bacteria to help the body build immunity to a disease. When someone is vaccinated, their body produces antibodies to the infection. If they are ever exposed to the disease, their immune system is primed and ready to fight it off.
The history of vaccines is long and complex, but immunization has saved millions of lives and is one of the most effective public health interventions available. In order for vaccines to be effective, however, they must be given to enough people in a population (herd immunity) to make it difficult for an outbreak of a disease to start and spread.
The types of vaccines
There are two types of vaccines: inactivated (killed) vaccines and live vaccines. Inactivated vaccines are used to protect against bacteria and viruses that cause polio, hepatitis A, influenza (flu), and rabies, among other diseases. The viruses in live vaccines are weakened so that they do not cause severe disease but can still induce immunity. Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), and chickenpox (varicella) are examples of diseases prevented by live vaccines.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines work by protecting people from diseases. They work by injecting a person with a “dead” or “modified” form of the virus. As that person’s immune system fights off the fake virus, the immune system is also preparing to fight the real virus, should it ever encounter it. When you get vaccinated, you’re not only protecting yourself—you’re also helping to protect your community by ensuring that diseases don’t spread as easily.
The benefits of vaccines
There are many benefits to vaccines. Vaccines can help prevent you from getting sick. They can also help keep you from spreading sickness to others. And in some cases, vaccines can help reduce your risk of getting cancer.
The risks of vaccines
The risks of vaccines are tiny compared to the risks of the diseases they protect against. However, like any medicine, there is a small chance of side effects. The most common side effect is soreness where the shot was given. Other side effects may include fever, feeling tired, and mild rash. Severe allergic reactions are very rare but can occur. If you have a severe reaction, you may need urgent medical treatment.
The controversy surrounding vaccines
There is a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines these days. Some people are for them and some people are against them. There are a lot of myths about vaccines that need to be debunked. One myth is that you can get the same diseases from the vaccine that you are trying to protect yourself from. That is not true. Vaccines are made with dead or weakened viruses. They can not give you the disease.
Another myth is that natural immunity is better than vaccine-induced immunity. That is also not true. Vaccines are much safer and more effective than natural immunity. The side effects from vaccines are usually mild and go away on their own. Severe side effects are very rare.
So, how do you prove vaccination for travel? You will need to have a record of your vaccinations from your doctor or a travel clinic. You may also need a yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling to certain parts of Africa or South America.
The bottom line is that you will need to get a doctor’s note or an official vaccination certificate in order to prove that you have been vaccinated for travel. Be sure to check with the embassy or consulate of your destination country to find out their specific requirements.