When and what vaccines do I need to go to East Africa?

I’ve been googling and the list is huge. Do I really need all of those vaccines? I already have measles, chicken pox and this year’s flu shot. I will be going in Feb or March of 2020. How long in advance do I need to get started?

The CDC Travel page is an excellent place to start. Input your country destinations and type of travel, and their recommendations are generally considered to be thorough and well researched.

Thank you! That’s super helpful.

Not to state the obvious, but I want to put it out there. Talk to your doctor. My aunt has been all over the world. I don’t know if this is always the case, but when she stayed in Africa (Tanzania, I believe, but she probably traveled a bit while she was there), she mentioned talking to her doctor about exactly that and going in to get the necessary shots.

Also, a piece of advice she got, “don’t eat anything that you can’t cook or peel”.

Contact a travel medicine clinic. Your county health department can steer you in that direction, if they don’t have one themselves.

I will speak to my doctor for sure

Ah, I didn’t know about those. There is one right in my city which I will pop in to talk to someone and make appointments. Unfortunately, according to their website, not all vaccines are covered by MSP.

Wouldn’t they go by the CDC recommendations?

Hep A seems to be recommended for many countries, and it’s supposed to be 2 shots 6 months apart for full effectiveness. (I found that out a couple of months before a trip to Costa Rica, I just got one shot as soon as possible and hoped for the best.)

I think most others are 1 shot and only take a few weeks to be fully effective, but the CDC web site has all that info on each vaccine.

I was in Kenya and Tanzania last October. Got a typhoid vaccine in Canada and picked up a yellow fever vaccine in Nairobi.

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My 85 year old dad was in Gambia for a week last month. He didn’t take shots or pills because he thought he might still have immunity from an (much) earlier trip and because the died effects of the shots ( dizziness) might ruin his trip.

A week after he got back he got mysterious chills and spiking fever. His doctor now thinks it’s either dengue or malaria.

A friend told me that if my dad was such a dumbass as not to get his shots, he should at least have worn protective clothing impregnated with insecticide to ward off musquito’s.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941478/ “Results showed that the personal protection provided by repellent KBR3023-impregnated uniforms is equal to permethrin treated uniforms and that KBR3023/PM-impregnated uniforms are more protective.”

And which brand of fabric keeps up the protection best after repeated washing?
“Overall, the ranking of the residual biocidal efficacies within the five brands tested was as follows: BDU ≈ Labonal > Sol’s Monarch > ExOfficio > Insect Shield.”

also in spray form. https://www.amazon.com/Permethrin-Clothing-Insect-Repellent-Aerosol-x/dp/B00AA8WX52

As noted - start with your doctor.

I travel extensively in Asia, before I go, I see my doc. He accesses a global database and he tells me what I need. I don’t think it’s CDC because when I asked him, he said it wasn’t open to the public, only to medical professionals.

The added benefit is that your family doc can also tell you if any of your existing vaccinations need boosters. Several of mine did. Also - you’ll need a prescription for everything anyway and have to see a doc for that.

Other Tips:
Plan well in advance
Depending on where you’re going and the potential diseases, they may not have the drugs readily on hand. It may take time to get them (especially of you live in a small town).
As noted by SCR4 - some drugs, like malaria & hepatitis require multiple doses to be effective, so you will need to start taking them weeks or more before you get to the danger zone.

Know exactly where you’re going:
There may be regions of countries where specific diseases are or aren’t active. For example - When I travelled to Cambodia, I was told malaria was not an issue in Phnom Penh, but if I went to Angkor Wat area it was a serious issue. Some of the drugs can be quite expensive. If you know you have no intent of going to that area, you can save the money.

Lastly - along the lines of Maastricht’s comment, I’d recommend bring powerful bug spray from home, maximum DEET content you can find. Never trust the local stuff. We forgot ours once and the only store in a small village only had some locally made “all natural” herbal product. We asked the clerk if it worked, he smiled and said “not really, but it’s all we sell.” He was completely correct, we would have been better off wishing away the mosquitos. We were quite bitten and we had an anxious period after we returned home, hoping all our vaccinations worked and we weren’t bitten by anything dangerous. We’ve never made that mistake since.

The NHS has an excellent website giving advice for all countries: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations/africa/kenya

I don’t think “talk to your doctor” is the best way to get the primary information on what shots are recommended for your travel plan. Doctors are busy, and a local GP is not going to be up to date on every remote part of the world. It’s the CDC’s job to monitor this stuff, and a good doc will just go the CDC website. If a local GP contradicts the CDC, I’d go with the CDC every time.

Of course, once you’ve figured out what you need, a doc can advise on side effects, and considerations of other medical conditions, other meds you may be taking etc

This is what I did when I went to Egypt last year. My doctor sent me to them, since she didn’t have the vaccines I needed at her office. The travel clinic was well-informed about what I should have for my trip, and had the vaccines at hand.

However, yes, your insurance may not cover all the shots. I submitted a claim, but wound up paying for my Hep A shots myself.

We have a travel medical service at my office, because we send people all over the world. The travel docs visit each site every month or so and you make an appointment. Since we’re travelling for work it’s all covered by the company.

Your GP should be able to recommend a travel medical service - they have on the ground experience and can also answer questions about other meds to bring with you (such as cipro) that need a prescription. Last time I went they assembled and gave me a kit with all the stuff I needed (including insect repellent).


Medical advice goes in IMHO, not GQ. Moving.

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Even aside from medical necessity, you might not be able to get your visa without proof of some of the vaccines.

Travel clinic opinion, not your Dr.

Many PCP are NOT up on the latest travel shots. Things change often, you want the most current info!

(Possessor of two full travel immunization books, stapled together!)

Re malaria meds: Some of them have side effects. People often report vivid technicolor nightmares when taking Mefloquine. Because of other meds I take, they had me on Doxycycline during the three years I was in Africa. It’s basically an antibiotic that is taken daily, and it works well. I had no problems during that time and was in west, east and south African countries.

Thank you for all the excellent advice. There is so much planning and research to do for this trip - it’s a bit overwhelming tbh. I just took an allergy pill and that got me thinking about my various prescriptions.

I guess I’ll have to get new prescriptions with everything in smaller bottles so I’m not carrying so much. I have two asthma meds, one for gerd, a nose spray. Actually, that’s really not very much now that I think about it. I guess for allergy pills, I’ll have to take a new, unopened bottle? Oh, I’ll also take some anti-diarrhea pills which will have to be unopened as well. I have a prescription for Iron but I can just forget about that for two weeks.

Then I started researching how much money and in which currency and gah!

Not sure why you think everything has to be in unopened bottles. That has not been my experience. It has to be in its original bottle, but it can be open!

They know travellers have meds, older ones more so. Your meds won’t even raise an eyebrow.

At the travel clinic I went to, they gave me a couple of packets of a powder–sorry, I don’t remember the medication name.

When you begin to feel the beginning of digestive rumbles, you mix the powder with (bottled) water and drink it. It worked very well. I didn’t have problems during my trip, even though most of the places I went in Egypt were places where you couldn’t drink the tap water, even to brush your teeth, and fresh fruit and veg possibly washed in the water were risky.