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Travel Vaccines for Europe and Russia

By Dr Liji Thomas, MD

Traveling is fun, but being exposed to communicable diseases is not so good. In addition to your personal risk of falling sick and missing out on enjoyable travel, you may bring back the infection to unvaccinated people in your own country and your own family.

Ways to ensure safe travel include:

  • Finding safe sources of food and water to avoid food poisoning
  • Avoiding exposure to animals and bites
  • Getting the right vaccinations: Visit your healthcare provider at least 4-6 weeks before your planned departure, to allow for sufficient time for the vaccines to be administered

Vaccines for all travelers

Vaccines that are expected to be taken by all travelers include:

The MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine protects travelers against catching mumps, measles and rubella infections. If all travelers were vaccinated appropriately, this would prevent a huge proportion of infections from being brought back into the host country to affect other unvaccinated people.

Proper precautions include:

  • Vaccinating all babies above 6 months against measles and MMR, if possible, before they leave
  • Two doses of MMR should have been taken by babies 12 months or older
  • Adults and adolescents should be tested for antibodies to measles; if not protected, they should take 2 doses of the vaccine at least 4 weeks apart

Other childhood vaccines

These are expected to have been routinely taken in childhood, and include:

  • The DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine
  • The varicella vaccine against chickenpox
  • The polio vaccine
  • The yearly influenza vaccine

Other vaccines useful for travelers in Europe and Russia

Tourists and travelers in Europe and Russia are also advised to have:

Hepatitis A

To protect against jaundice transmitted through contaminated food or water, and taken as 2 doses 6 months apart.

Typhoid vaccine

This is to protect against the transmission of typhoid germs through food or water, either as oral vaccine or in the injectable form. Its efficacy ranges from only 50-80%, and so you should take care not to expose yourself to unhealthy or contaminated food.

The following vaccines are highly recommended for some groups:

Hepatitis B

It is recommended in the following cases:

  • You will be participating in high-risk activities. This is mandatory if you may have sexual or blood-borne contact with any unknown person, including body tattoos and medical procedures. Healthcare workers who will be exposed to blood or serum or body fluids should also be immunized.
  • Older people
  • People who are sick with chronic illnesses

Three doses are required, at 0, 1, and 6 months from the date of the first vaccination. An accelerated schedule is also possible in some cases. It is more than 90% effective. Most children in developed countries receive this vaccine in infancy.

Rabies

Is not a major threat here, and the vaccine is recommended only if your work or sport may bring you in contact with animals and also for:

  • Adventure travelers (hikers, trekkers, cavers, explorers, campers, or bikers)
  • Those who work among animals (vets, animal researchers, forestry or wildlife workers)
  • Children, who are more likely to sustain bites on the head and neck
  • Travelers or campers in the Caucasus region of Russia, especially for those who will spend much time there or live outdoors
  • Travelers who will spend prolonged periods in Russia especially in remote areas

Three doses are required for pre-exposure prophylaxis, at 0, 7, and 21 (or 28) days from the first dose.

Japanese encephalitis

This vaccine is required for your safety in many remote regions of Russia, especially for travelers who will be exposed for long periods, either at one stretch or over many days. It is better to discuss one’s itinerary with the healthcare providers so as to make an informed decision as to the need for this vaccine.

Tick-borne encephalitis

This is found in some areas of Europe and Russia that are heavily forested. The course requires three injections, the second following one to three months after the first and the third being given from five to 12 months after the second.

Two doses confer immunity for approximately a year, while three doses protect the individual for up to three years. Shortened courses consist of two doses two weeks apart.

Tuberculosis

This infection is still rife in some areas in Russia. Travelers under 16 years of age should receive the BCG vaccine if:

  • They have never been vaccinated with it so far
  • They intend to stay among local people for at least three months

Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc

References

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 26, 2016

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