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Essential Immunizations for Older Adults Who Travel

By Sarah Peterman on August 6, 2015 under Process of Aging, Senior Care Advice Read more:


For many seniors, entering the age of retirement can finally present the opportunity to follow a lifelong dream of seeing the world. However, that dream may turn into a nightmare if essential travel immunizations are neglected. Regular immunizations are an important part of preventing disease in day to day life, but they’re far more important when preparing to cross the border.

Whether you’re going to an exotic location or only heading to a neighboring state, having the right vaccinations may save your life. Below you can learn about some of the more important vaccinations for international travel, as well as when those vaccinations need to be taken to be ready for your trip.


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Common Travel Vaccines for Adults

The single most important vaccination for traveling overseas is the MMR vaccine, which confers protection against the measles, mumps, and rubella. Although these diseases have been eliminated or nearly eliminated within the United States for some time, they continue to be common ailments all across the globe. For instance, nearly 20 million people are infected with the measles every year, including hundreds of cases affecting those who are traveling abroad.

MMR is a two-part vaccination, requiring two shots one month apart. That means if you want to be prepared for your trip, you’ll need to prepare this vaccination at least a month in advance. While MMR is an important vaccination regardless of where you go, it’s particularly important if you’re traveling to Bosnia, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Germany, or Angola.

Hepatitis and Typhoid

Two more common travel vaccinations are shots for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, which can be contracted through contaminated food and water in large number of regions around the world. Like with MMR, the Hepatitis A vaccine is issued in two doses, and the first should be taken at least one month before traveling.

Apart from also taking one month to take effect, the typhoid vaccine is considerably different. Because this vaccine is only 50-80% effective, it’s important to continue to be vigilant about where and what you eat while you’re traveling in regions that put you at risk for typhoid.  That means eating thoroughly cooked foods, washing your hands before eating and preparing food, avoiding eating from street vendors, and only consuming purified or bottled water.  The most common area to contract typhoid is South Asia, but travelers are also at considerable risk in South America, Central America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Traveling to Africa and South America

There are over 40 nations where travelers face considerable risk for the transmission of yellow fever, including most of Africa, and much of Central and South America. A yellow fever vaccine is required to travel to many parts of sub-Saharan Africa as well as South America. Over the past 40 years, as few as nine cases of yellow fever occurred in unvaccinated travelers, but 89% of those travelers died from the disease.  Because of the very high fatality rate facing those who contract this disease, prevention is paramount.

Unfortunately, the yellow fever vaccination can cause serious potential side effects, which is why doctors will only issue this vaccination for those who are at risk for exposure, or for those who require proof that they’ve been vaccinated to enter a country. Furthermore, because travelers over the age of 60 are at an increased risk for the more severe adverse side effects of the yellow fever vaccination, it’s important for seniors who travel to these areas talk to their doctor to discuss the risks and advantages of being vaccinated. It only takes ten days for the yellow fever vaccination to take effect, making it one of the faster-acting travel immunizations.

Routine Immunizations

Besides these common immunizations for travel, it’s important that you’re also up-to-date on annual adult immunizations, including varicella, hepatitis B, and tetanus-diphtheria. The varicella, tetanus and diphtheria vaccination should be renewed once a decade, and the hepatitis vaccination every 20 years. It’s also worth getting your polio booster shot every 4-6 years, as polio still affects many parts of the developing world. Finally, you shouldn’t neglect your annual flu shot, which takes about two weeks to take effect.

While this may seem like a lot to remember, it’s information that may save your life. Travel can enrich your life, but it can also put you at risk for a number of dangerous diseases. IF you don’t want the memento of your time traveling to be a dangerous disease, be sure you have all your vaccinations prepared before your trip, and time them so they’ll be fully effective while you’re exploring the world.

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By  on August 6, 2015 under Process of AgingSenior Care Advice

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