What Vaccinations Do I Need for Southeast Asia

A trip to Southeast Asia is an experience you’re sure never to forget. Along with all the wonderful memories, however, you may also bring back something a bit more pernicious like, for example, typhoid or yellow fever. Here are the vaccinations you should get before traveling to Southeast Asia.

First and foremost it should be noted that deciding what health precautions to take and which vaccinations to get when traveling abroad, particularly the vaccines for Southeast Asia, the answer is rarely, if ever, one-size-fits-all. There are, in fact, a variety of factors to consider, including the length of your stay, time of year, what you’re planning on doing, your vaccination history, and your personal health. These all have a role in deciding which immunizations you should choose to get.

What Vaccinations Do I Need For Southeast Asia?

There are a number of immunizations for Southeast Asia trips, with that said, and as a sort of “cure all,” to provide you with a simplified answer we suggest everyone planning a trip to Southeast Asia (as a general rule) get the following vaccinations:

  • Adult polio booster
  • Hepatitis A
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria
  • Yellow Fever (required for all South America trips)
  • Typhoid
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Malaria medication only if visiting the jungle areas of these countries
  • And (for those looking to travel during monsoon month) meningitis

Doctors and travel clinics tend to err towards more shots to cover all possible situations, so it’s important that each individual traveler and the tour operator do the research and discuss the options.

Although, as we said, you should get all of the vaccinations mentioned above, here’s some additional information on a the 3 most prevalent diseases/viruses occuring in Southeast Asia:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus that’s transmitted via contaminated water or food. It is by far the most common disease caught by travellers while visiting developing/third-world countries. The unfortunate thing is that it’s preventable. Hepatitis A vaccines are usually advised for travellers to Southeast Asia.

The three basic types of hepatitis A vaccinations are:

1) the monovalent vaccine, which provides protection against hep A only

2) the combined hepatitis A and B vaccine

3) the combined hepatitis A and typhoid vaccine

You should get your Hepatitis A vaccine, ideally, about two weeks prior to your trip, but if you were not able to plan it that far in advance, it’s okay! You can still get vaccinated up to the day of your departure if necessary. The initial vaccination should protect you for about a year but, if you get a booster shot 6-12 months after your first shot it’ll protect you for up to 20 years. If using one of the combined vaccines, these should be given 4-6 weeks before your date of travel.

Tetanus

Tetanus lives and spreads in spores that occur in soil around the world. Usually, for lifelong immunity, you will need a five-dose vaccination. Vacations for Asian countries can be great fun, but, as always, you have to be careful. Most people living outside the UK, which provides all five doses to children for free, have not received their full vaccination course. While receiving your full course of tetanus vaccinations may not seem critically important if you’re just muddling about your home country, it is essential to make sure you’ve done so if you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia.

Another thing to remember is that even if you’re fully vaccinated for tetanus, you may need a booster shot if you are planning to travel to an impoverished part of Southeast Asia and your last vaccination is a decade or older. Consult your doctor for more information.

Typhoid

Typhoid, like tetanus, is found worldwide, but it is far more common in areas with poor hygiene and sanitation systems. This includes traveling to Southeast Asia vacation spots. You are especially at risk of catching typhoid fever if you enjoy exploring local cuisines or if you plan on living or working with the locals on your trip.

There are three types of typhoid vaccines available:

1) the Vi vaccine (a single injection)

2) the Ty21a vaccine (a course of three capsules to be taken orally)

3) a combined typhoid and hepatitis A injection (available for people aged 15 or over).

You should get your typhoid vaccination at least a month prior to your date of departure. If necessary, however, you can get it closer than that. Also note that it’s recommended people traveling to high-risk destinations like those in Southeast Asia get booster vaccinations every three years.

Japanese Encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes making it very difficult to prevent – and treatment is only supportive. This means that once you actually get the illness, there is not a lot that can be done about it. However, a new (and safer) vaccine against Japanese encephalitis has been developed and is worth considering if you are traveling in SE Asia.

Malaria

Malaria is a very serious disease which is included on this list as something of an honorable mention. This is because you can’t actually vaccinate against it. So, instead of vaccination, we advise travelers to take a course of antimalarial tablets, cover up with long sleeves and long trousers, wear insect repellent, and (if possible) sleep under a mosquito net to reduce the risk of infection. There are various different types of antimalarial drugs available. Consult your doctor to find out which one is suitable for you.

There are three particular regions in Southeast Asia in which you are at risk of contracting malaria:

  • Cambodia: a malaria risk is present throughout Cambodia, except in Phnom Penh, near Tonle Sap Lake, and at Angkor Wat.
  • Vietnam: there’s a malaria risk just about everywhere in Vietnam except for Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, the Red River Delta, the Mekong Delta, and the coastal plains of central Vietnam. The risk is highest in the central highland provinces to the northwest of Qui Nhon and the provinces southwest of Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Laos: a malaria risk is present in all areas of Laos except the capital, Vientiane.

There you have it, our guide to all the vaccinations you should get before traveling to Southeast Asia. Now that you know your travel vaccinations for Southeast Asia, get travel insurance to help take care of everything else and, of course, to give yourself some peace of mind while out exploring on your next adventure.