Travel Vaccinations for developing countries

  Real-world advice for Backpackers / Independent Travellers - 2016

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 Recommended Jabs: A guide to the Travel Injections backpackers need to consider

So, you're heading out on your world trip ... what could possibly go wrong? 
Well, these are the main illnesses that backpackers should be aware of; The good news is that with a full set of Jabs, plus your Malaria tablets (and assuming you were paying attention to the about Mosquitoes page) you'll be fine - have a great trip.

There is a standard 'set' of travel injections that apply for developing countries in general, e.g. the vaccinations required for most of Africa are pretty much the same as those needed for South America. There may be the odd country-specific difference (your doctor or travel clinic will give you specific advice based on your itinerary) but this table shows the main illnesses that backpackers to developing countries should cater for; see the Notes section at the bottom of the page for more.

Disease Category Examples Vaccine
Recommended for
Backpackers? (region)
Transmitted by
Food & Water Borne  Hepatitis A
 Typhoid Fever
 No -  See Notes*
Contaminated food and drink, polluted recreational waters.
Vector Borne Diseases
(Mosquito= a vector)
 Dengue Fever
 Yellow Fever
 Usually - See Notes*
 No -  See Notes*
 (Africa & South Am.)
Insect bites: Use mosquito repellent and cover up to avoid getting bitten.
Diseases Borne
by Animals
 Rabies Yes  Optional An animal bite, scratch, or when an animal licks you on cuts, or broken skin.
Sexually Transmitted
 Hepatitis B Yes  Yes Avoiding casual or unprotected sex and by use of condoms.
Blood Borne Diseases  Hepatitis B Yes  Yes Direct contact with body fluids, blood transfusions contaminated needles (e.g. piercing, tattooing)
Air Borne Diseases  Tuberculosis
 Yes - See Notes*
 (Africa) - See Notes*
Spray or droplets from the nose and mouth.
Diseases from Soil  Tetanus Yes  Yes Spores of infectious agents in contact with broken skin (e.g. cuts, scratches)

A Cholera vaccine is available which provides protection from some (not all) strains of the disease for 2 years.
The vaccine is given to health workers in emergency aid camps, or long-term volunteers, i.e. those spending extended periods in high-risk areas. The vaccine is not normally given to Backpackers

As of late 2012, Polio has been eradicated in all but 3 countries worldwide, they are: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There is no vaccine for Malaria, however medication (tablets) provide a good level of protection. A map showing the regions where malaria is endemic is on the Malaria page.

There is no vaccine for Dengue at present, there are 4 sub-types of the disease which has held-up development of a vaccine. To protect yourself against Dengue avoid mosquito bites.

The Tuberculosis (TB) vaccination, known by the acronym 'BCG', was given to school children in western countries for many years, although with TB in decline in the developed world, the BCG vaccination has been phased out in many areas, including the UK. If you've had your BCG either at school or later (you may still have a visible scar on your shoulder) you're covered for TB, you don't need a booster.

There are various sub-types of Meningitis (A, B, C, W135, Y, Z, 29E) however travellers headed to Sub-Saharan Africa should be immunised with the MenACWY vaccine (i.e. for sub-types A, C, W135 and Y).
Muslims attending the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia should also get the MenACWY vaccine.
In the UK, school children have been immunised for Meningitis C since 1999-2000.


This page was last updated on 03-Feb-2016