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Getting your shots: Vaccinations needed for your African Safari

Our consultants often deal with clients who are anxious about various medical concerns before their trips, the main one being what vaccinations are needed for Africa. It’s not quite as simple as ‘Africa’ – considering Africa covers over 30 million km 2 – and different areas have different vaccination requirements.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive blog, detailing exactly what shots you need for the countries in southern and East Africa that our safaris visit, when to get them, and where.

IMPORTANT NOTE/DISCLAIMER:

This is a general, basic overview of some vaccinations needed for safaris. Before travelling to Africa, every person should visit their own doctor or local travel clinic, well in advance of their departure, to obtain advice. Each person is different, has different underlying conditions, allergies, etc., so a pre-trip health check and discussion of what vaccines and malaria prophylaxis are necessary, and other health concerns, is imperative.

This blog does not replace the advice of your doctor/travel nurse.

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Rhinos

Medical Insurance

This is a non-negotiable must. Before coming on safari, be sure to get good medical insurance, including medical evacuation. Many areas visited are far from medical facilities and difficult to reach. Should there be a medical emergency, you want to feel safe in the knowledge that your insurance will cover any eventuality. Check out our full section on medical insurance on how to get it.

What vaccinations to get for your African safari in 2020

The only shot that is compulsory in some countries (i.e. you won’t be allowed across the border without proof of vaccination) is the yellow fever vaccine, but there are many recommended shots in others. We have a whole blog on yellow fever, so head over there for all things yellow fever, including a map of where it is endemic.

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Giraffes

Remember to check that all your routine childhood vaccinations – which in most countries include tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, TB and meningitis – were done and get boosters where necessary. You can also discuss getting various optional shots, like the flu and pneumococcal shots, with your healthcare provider/travel clinic.

The choice of whether to get the recommended vaccinations or not depends on a number of things including:

  • Where you’re travelling to in each country e.g. rural vs. urban
  • Local outbreaks e.g. cholera
  • Length of stay
  • What your accommodation will be e.g. camping vs. 5-star hotel
  • Activities you’re going to be involved in e.g. swimming in dams, helping out at a clinic, being involved in veterinary work
  • Your medical history e.g. underlying conditions, medicines which may affect immunity
  • Vaccination history i.e. did you receive all your childhood immunisations?

Local outbreaks/Travel warnings

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Hippo

Outbreaks of diseases such as cholera do, at times, occur and this will mean that you may need to get a specific vaccine for that outbreak (or, in severe cases, avoid travel to some places). The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) publishes these travel warnings and it’s advisable to keep an eye on these in the build-up to your safari.

When should you get your shots for your safari in Africa

Remember that vaccinations may take a little while to work and some are given over a couple of days/weeks, sequentially. This means you may need to visit your doctor/travel clinic on a couple of occasions if you need to get numerous shots, so go as early as possible.

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Snufflin’ about in Africa

To help you plan, here we’ll list the most common shots recommended for an African safari (there are numerous other vaccines that you could consider prior to your African safari, depending on all risk factors), how the disease they protect you against is spread, how long they take to work and who the American Advisory on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Centre for Disease Control and/or World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends gets them. Later in the blog, we will list each country our safaris visit and specify what’s needed for where.

Cholera

Transmission: food and water
Recommended for: at-risk travellers to an area of active cholera transmission
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 10-14 days

Diphtheria

Transmission: person-to-person (air-borne)
Recommended for: all travellers should be up-to-date with diphtheria toxoid vaccine
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: Boosters are given every 10 years

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Hepatitis A

Transmission: person-to-person, food and water
Recommended for: all travellers to countries with high or intermediate HAV endemicity
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 1 month/as soon as possible (3 doses)

Hepatitis B

Transmission: blood and body fluids
Recommended for: all unvaccinated travellers to areas with a prevalence of HBV infection
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: as soon as possible (3 doses)

Meningitis

Transmission: person-to-person (air-borne)
Recommended for: travellers to parts of sub-Saharan Africa known as the “meningitis belt”
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 10 days

Polio

Transmission: Faecal-oral, oral-oral
Recommended for: travellers to areas that have polio should ensure that they have completed the recommended age-appropriate polio vaccine series and that adults have received a single lifetime IPV booster dose. In addition, a booster dose for certain adult travellers to some countries that border areas with polio is recommended
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 4 weeks (booster)

Rabies

Transmission: animal bites
Recommended for: travellers to rabies-endemic countries who may come in contact with animals
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 1 month (3 doses)

Tetanus

Transmission: non-intact skin, injuries/bites from contaminated objects
Recommended for: travellers who do not have up-to-date immunisation (10-yearly booster)

Typhoid

Transmission: food and water, faecal-oral
Recommended for: travellers to areas where there is an increased risk of exposure
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 2 weeks

Yellow fever

Transmission: mosquito-borne
Compulsory for: all travellers ≥ 9 months of age to areas with yellow fever risk
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 10 days

Where to get vaccinations

The best place to go and get advice on what shots to get for your African safari is a travel clinic. Most major towns across the world have specialist travel clinics, so seek out the nearest one. If there isn’t one close, get your doctor to call one and then you can decide which shots you should have for the specific countries you’re visiting.

While you’re at the doctor, have a general check-up, stock up on any meds you take chronically (and get an official prescription, with generic names. Keep a copy with your passport). Remember that some medications may not be available in the countries you visit on your safari, so go prepared. If you want an overview of all things health-related, see our blog, The Complete African Safari Medical Guide.

Country-specific vaccinations

What shots do you need for South Africa?

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Drinking hole buffalos

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Namibia?

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Namibia safari

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Botswana safaris?

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Zebras

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Zimbabwe?

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Mozambique holidays?

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Mozambique

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Malawi?

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Malawi birdlife

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Zambia?

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Cheetahs

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Tanzania safaris?

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Serengeti safari

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended vaccinations: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Kenya safaris?

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Flamingos

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Required shots: proof of yellow fever vaccination for all travellers travelling from a country with risk of YFV transmission and all of those visiting yellow fever-endemic regions of the country
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Uganda?

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Mom and baby gorilla

Required vaccinations: yellow fever vaccination recommended for all travellers and proof required if travelling from YFV endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)?

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African mountain gorilla

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination for all travellers
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

Vaccinations are not 100% effective

Please remember that no vaccine protects you 100%. The most important way to not get an infectious disease – after vaccination – is to avoid the causes.

This means, amongst other measures, mosquito repellants and nets and covering up between dusk and dawn, to avoid mosquito bites (yellow fever and malaria), drinking bottled water (no ice!), being careful about what you eat and washing fruits well before eating, using condoms and avoiding risky behaviour.

On the matter of malaria, for which there is no vaccination, chemoprophylaxis is recommended in endemic areas (many of the places our trips go). See our blog Malaria made simple.

Planning well and being prepared = dream safari

That, in a nutshell, is what you need to do regarding getting your vaccines after you’ve booked your dream African safari. As discussed, only the yellow fever vaccine is compulsory – if going to, or passing through, a yellow fever endemic country.

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Desert fun on safari

The rest of the shots recommended for your African safari can be decided on, in consultation with your travel health consultant, according to the current risks in the areas you’re travelling to and your personal health. Speak to our consultants for more guidance about what vaccinations you need to travel to Africa.

Here’s to a magnificent, healthy African safari!

If you liked this post, these trips cover similar ground…

About the Author

Briony Chisholm
Wordsmith & Pharmacist

Briony is a qualified pharmacist, published author and travel blogger living in Cape Town. She writes her own blog about travel, the arts, music and the good things in life, with a focus on accessibility. She likes watching the world go by, and sometimes it makes her nose twitchy, but mostly it provides golden nuggets with which to light up the page.

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How long before you travel should you get vaccinated?

Being vaccinated against illness before travelling abroad may be inconvenient and mildly unpleasant, but don’t be tempted to skip those injections – or to leave them until the last minute. We ask a GP and a specialist travel health nurse for their advice.

Image of Julian Turner

Authored by Julian Turner ·
Reviewed by Dr Sarah Jarvis MBE
28-Nov-18 · 5 mins read

In November, a British man died after contracting rabies from a cat bite while visiting Morocco. According to reports, his life could potentially have been saved had he been given a course of the rabies vaccine in time.

While rare, tragic cases such as this are a timely reminder of the importance of being vaccinated before travelling to certain countries in order to protect yourself – and others – against a range of potentially serious diseases, such as rabies, yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A.

How do vaccinations work?

Vaccination works by introducing a small amount of inactive/weakened bacterium or virus, or inactivated toxins, into the body, either orally or by injection. Sometimes the toxin or poison made by the bacterium or virus is given to the body. These methods are known as immunisation by a vaccine as opposed to immunity you get from your mother, for instance.

Because the agent in the vaccine is inactive or weak, you cannot get an infection from it. Instead, the vaccine kick-starts the body’s immune system and our white blood cells start working, helping the body make antibodies that act like soldiers to fight infections from a specific bacterium or virus.

The good news is, if the exact same bacterium or virus enters our body again, these antibodies wake up and protect us from getting sick. This memory defence system is called immunity and sometimes it can be lifelong.

Off on holiday?

Make sure you get your immunisations ahead of travelling abroad. Speak to a local pharmacist today

What kind of vaccinations do I need before travelling abroad?

The vaccines you will need depend on your destination, personal health and planned activities, while the timescales in which they need to be taken prior to travel differ for each one.

Within 7-14 days of receiving a vaccination, the body will usually develop protection to help fight infection. However, some, such as rabies or hepatitis B vaccine, require multiple doses spread over several weeks to ensure adequate immunity.

“A vaccination for yellow fever, for example, is a mandatory requirement for travelling to some countries in Africa and South America,” explains Lynda Bramham, travel health nurse specialist at the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

“However, the international certificate required for yellow fever does not become valid until ten days after the vaccine has been administered.

“Some vaccinations offer lifelong protection, whereas others require a booster dose after several months or years. For the flu vaccine, a dose is required every year.

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“We advise those travelling outside the UK to get advice from their GP surgery or travel clinic at least 4-6 weeks before they are due to travel; those with complex medical needs should seek advice earlier.”

Make sure you plan ahead

Don’t be tempted to leave getting vaccinated to the last minute as the body may not have enough time to produce antibodies, leaving you at risk of not being adequately immunised or protected.

Getting vaccines late also means if you were to develop side-effects, this could potentially happen when you are travelling or when you first get to your destination.

“It is advisable to start your vaccinations around eight weeks prior to travel, as it can take a few days to a few weeks for your body to make antibodies,” states Dr Preethi Daniel from the London Doctors Clinic.

“Some people require immunisation well in advance, and some may require more than one injection in the course, so you need to allow time for this.”

NaTHNaC advises those travelling outside the UK to get advice from their GP surgery or travel clinic at least 4-6 weeks before they are due to travel, while those with complex medical needs should seek advice earlier. It’s probably worth going for an 8-week rather than a 4- to 6-week window, as earlier immunisation will never do any harm, whereas leaving it too late can.

However, even if time is short, it may still be worth getting advice. Some last-minute vaccinations are recommended as they may be effective before a disease with a long incubation period develops, and others may be worthwhile even if they don’t provide immediate protection for the first part of your trip abroad. Other preventative measures can also be discussed.

‘Immunisation Against Infectious Disease’, also known as the Green Book, has the latest information on UK vaccines and vaccination procedures.

Are there side-effects?

It is not uncommon for patients to develop mild, short-lived side-effects, such as myalgia (muscle pain), headache and low-grade fever, during the first five to ten days following vaccination.

Sometimes, people can also develop reactions to the ingredients that carry the vaccine, such as egg protein or gelatine, so always be sure to tell your nurse beforehand about any allergies before being vaccinated.

On very rare occasions, a severe allergic (anaphylactic) reaction may occur within a few minutes of the vaccination. Some vaccines can be contra-indicated (cannot be given) to certain individuals for medical reasons, and precautions should also be taken with some vaccines for certain risk groups – for example, pregnant women, individuals aged 60 and older, individuals living with HIV, or those whose immune system is weakened.

What are the risks of not being vaccinated?

Without vaccination you will be unprotected with a risk of becoming infected and further transmitting the infection. Remember, vaccinations not only aim to reduce risks to the individual – they are also an important weapon in the fight to prevent transmission as part of wider disease control efforts.

“The public health risks of lack of vaccination can be separated into individual health risk (direct infection), and public health risk (onwards transmission),” Bramham confirms. “There are also associated costs to health systems if people are unvaccinated and become infected.”

“While many vaccines provide high levels of protection, some are not as effective – typhoid vaccine, for example, provides around 70% protection over three years and therefore other infection prevention measures such as care with food, water and personal hygiene are important,” she adds.

So, if in doubt, make an appointment with a GP surgery or travel clinic so that vaccines and other preventative measures can be discussed.

How long before travelling to africa do i need vaccinations

woman with mask getting vaccine from doctor

International travel increases your chances of getting and spreading diseases that are rare or not found in United States. Find out which travel vaccines you may need to help you stay healthy on your trip.

Before Travel

Make sure you are up-to-date on all of your routine vaccines. Routine vaccinations protect you from infectious diseases such as measles that can spread quickly in groups of unvaccinated people. Many diseases prevented by routine vaccination are not common in the United States but are still common in other countries.

Check CDC’s destination pages for travel health information. Check CDC’s webpage for your destination to see what vaccines or medicines you may need and what diseases or health risks are a concern at your destination.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider or a travel health specialist at least one month before you leave. They can help you get destination-specific vaccines, medicines, and information. Discussing health concerns as well as your itinerary and planned activities with your provider allows them to give more specific advice and recommendations.

Because some vaccines require multiple doses, it’s best to see your health care provider as soon as possible.

Medicines to prevent malaria are pills that you start to take before travel. Take recommended medicines as directed. If your health care provider prescribes medicine for you, take the medicine as directed before, during, and after travel.

Where can I get travel vaccines?

You may be able to get some travel vaccines from your primary healthcare provider. If you or your healthcare provider need help finding a location that provides certain vaccines or medicines, visit CDC’s Find a Clinic page.

If yellow fever vaccine is recommended or required for your destination, you’ll need to go to a vaccine center authorized to give yellow fever vaccinations. Many yellow fever vaccine centers also provide other pre-travel health care services. Find an authorized US yellow fever vaccine center.

Examples of Vaccines

Here is a list of possible vaccines that you may need to get for the first time or boosters before you travel.

Source https://www.africanbudgetsafaris.com/blog/getting-your-shots-what-vaccinations-are-needed-for-your-safari-in-africa/

Source https://patient.info/news-and-features/how-far-in-advance-do-you-need-travel-vaccinations

Source https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travel-vaccines

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