Stay healthy on your trip by learning the vaccines needed to travel to Africa, including a list of the required and CDC-recommended vaccines for travelers.
Wondering what vaccines you need before you go to Africa? Check the list to find out if you’re protected or need to get a few vaccinations before you go!
Are Vaccines Needed to Travel to Africa?
- Protect yourself, others, and wildlife with up-to-date vaccinations
- Reduce the chances of contracting disease in Africa
- Ensure a seamless travel process with the right vaccinations
Are vaccines necessary if you want to go to Africa? The short answer: Yes. There are a list of vaccines you’ll need or want to have before you enter certain African countries.
We all want to arrive on a long-awaited trip healthy, happy, and ready to take in new experiences. Getting sick on your trip just isn’t part of the plan!
If you’re planning on visiting Africa, you need to ensure you’re up to date on certain vaccines before you leave. This will help you avoid diseases you may come into contact with while you’re in Africa.
Some vaccines are required to enter specific African countries. Without these necessary vaccines, you may be refused entry upon arrival or forced to quarantine for days or weeks.
Others are highly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) for travelers to decrease the chances of contracting a disease while traveling.
Since Africa is a huge continent with 54 countries within its bounds, there are a lot of different vaccine rules and regulations for traveling here.
The last thing you want is to travel all the way to Africa only to be refused entry or immediately quarantined because you’re lacking required vaccines!
We did the research to bring you a complete list of the vaccines needed to travel to Africa so you can check off your shots before you leave for your trip.
List of Vaccines Needed to Travel to Africa
Before you take off on your trip to Africa, you’ll want to make sure you’re protected with all the required and recommended vaccines that target diseases you may come into contact with while you’re there.
There are two groups of vaccines to consider before your trip, and both are equally important: Your routine vaccines and the required/recommended vaccines that are more specific to the areas and regions you plan to visit.
Take a look to learn more about the current CDC and WHO recommendations for traveler vaccines before going to Africa!
I. Routine Vaccines for Travel to Africa
Chances are, you’re up to date on all or most of your routine vaccinations. It’s possible that you might need a booster or get a vaccine you missed during childhood before you leave for Africa.
Make sure you’re up to date on these routine vaccinations before you leave for Africa.
- Influenza (flu)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
- DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
These vaccines may not be required by the African country or countries you’re traveling to, but it’s a good idea to have as much disease protection as possible.
If you received any or all of these vaccinations on the recommended schedule through childhood and adolescence, it’s possible that you may need a booster or additional shot before going to Africa.
Your doctor will be able to tell you which vaccines offer lifelong protection from the disease and which you’ll need a booster for before traveling.
II. Recommended Vaccines for Travel to Africa
These vaccines are recommended for people traveling to Africa in addition to the routine vaccines listed above.
With the exception of the anthrax vaccine (required for government employees and other risk groups) and yellow fever vaccine (required for certain travelers to some African countries), these are not vaccine requirements.
Instead, they are vaccine recommendations laid out by the CDC and WHO. Not all vaccines are recommended for all travelers, so take a look below to learn more about the vaccines needed to travel to Africa.
The anthrax vaccine is only required for travel to Africa for certain groups, like government employees or people traveling through specific regions of Africa.
If you’re traveling on behalf of an organization or group, check ahead of time to see if an anthrax vaccine is required for you to go to Africa.
In most cases, it won’t be necessary, but it’s always worth checking.
The cholera vaccine is recommended only for some travelers headed to Africa. In the United States, the cholera vaccine is a one-time oral dose (taken by mouth).
The CDC states that most travelers won’t need this vaccine, but in certain African countries where cholera transmission is more common (like Kenya), it may be a good idea.
Adults ages 18-64 traveling to certain parts of Africa should consider the cholera vaccine. Talk to your doctor to see if it should be added to your pre-travel vaccine list.
Note that the CDC says this vaccine is “not 100% effective against cholera and does not protect from other foodborne or waterborne diseases.”
You’ll still need to exercise caution with what you drink and eat.
Proof of vaccination for Covid-19 is not required for entry to most African countries at this time.
Some countries, like Kenya, do require proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before your departure if you’re not supplying proof of up-to-date Covid-19 vaccination.
Note that the CDC recommends that you get vaccinated and boosted before traveling if you’re eligible for the shot.
Sub-saharan Africa sees high levels of meningococcal meningitis and is part of the “meningitis belt.” Meningitis is a severe bacterial infection that attacks the brain.
It’s transmitted through respiratory secretions (like mucus) and saliva, so it’s easy to catch this disease while traveling if you’re not vaccinated.
If you’re planning to travel to sub-saharan Africa or will pass through on safari, the CDC and WHO recommend getting the meningococcal vaccine.
The meningitis vaccine type and dose will be determined by your existing risk factors, age, and other vaccines you’re getting at the same time.
Talk to your doctor to find out which kind of meningococcal vaccine will work best for you, how many doses you’ll need, and how far apart they should be given.
Traveling to Africa can increase your risk of contracting polio, a serious food- and waterborne disease that can lead to paralysis or death.
Most people receive the polio vaccine during childhood, but before traveling to Africa, the CDC recommends getting a one-time IPV (inactivated poliovirus vaccine) booster.
If you’re totally unvaccinated for polio, the CDC recommends a series of 3 doses, 4 weeks apart on an accelerated schedule.
This should be first on your list so you don’t run out of time before your trip!
A rabies vaccine is recommended if you’re traveling to certain parts of Africa or if you plan to go on safari.
If you may be around potentially rabies-infected animals, you should consider this vaccine.
Rabies can be fatal and is transmitted through bites or scratches from infection animals. In the United States, rabies vaccination is a 3-injection schedule given over a period of 3-4 weeks.
Make sure to plan out your vaccine schedule to have all recommended doses finished in time before your trip with a little extra leeway.
The typhoid vaccine is recommended if you plan to travel to Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is more common and dangerous to travelers.
Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella Typhi (S. Typhi). It thrives in developing countries and spreads to humans through contaminated food.
In the United States, you have 2 choices for a typhoid vaccine:
- Inactivated typhoid vaccine injection (1 dose at least 2 weeks before travel, ages 2+)
- Oral live typhoid vaccine (1 capsule/day for 4 days at least a week before travel, ages 6+)
Discussing these options with your doctor will help you discover which option is best for you and will have you protected in time for your planned trip.
Yellow Fever Vaccine
Proof of a yellow fever vaccine (International Certificate of Vaccination) may be required for entry for all people ages 9 months and up to some African countries.
The list includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameron, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d’lvoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Niger, and Togo.
Other African countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination for people traveling from countries with high risk of the disease, including Kenya and Botswana.
The list can change, so make sure to check with each country you plan to visit ahead of time! Even if the country you plan to visit isn’t on the list, it’s worth getting this vaccine anyway.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral illness that causes severe jaundice (hence the name) and symptoms like vomiting, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and fever.
A single dose of this vaccine is effective for lifelong protection against yellow fever. Make sure you’ve got it before you head to Africa!
Protecting Yourself from Other Diseases in Africa
Vaccines aren’t available for all diseases in Africa, so it’s wise to know how to take preemptive action and protect yourself from the moment you arrive.
Protecting yourself from non-vaccine preventable disease here starts with common sense – wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, stay away from sick people and animals, and practice good kitchen hygiene.
But you can take your protection a step further by reading through the CDC’s recommendations and prevention steps below for different types of disease.
Malaria, Chikungunya fever, dengue fever, and zika virus are all mosquitoborne diseases that are prevalent in Africa.
These diseases are passed to humans through the bites of infected mosquitos. It’s impossible to know which mosquitoes are infected, so protection against all mosquito bites is the way to avoid them.
Bug spray containing DEET, mosquito netting, long sleeves and pants, and avoiding areas with standing water are all helpful in avoiding mosquitoborne diseases.
Antimalarial drugs are available by prescription in the United States. Consider having your doctor write you a prescription so you can begin taking the pills before your trip.
Leptospirosis and schistosomiasis are both serious waterborne diseases that you may come across in Africa.
Protect yourself by drinking clean, purified water and avoiding swimming or wading in freshwater streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes that could be contaminated.
Ebola virus disease (EVD) occurs when humans are in contact with infected animals. It’s a potentially deadly disease, so it’s important to know how to avoid it.
In Africa, especially the sub-saharan region, this disease occurs naturally in animals and can be inadvertently passed to humans.
Avoid contact with any infected person and their bodily fluids, bedding, and clothing. Don’t touch bats, forest antelope, or primates (known vectors of the disease).
It’s best to avoid eating “bushmeat,” or any unknown meat, while you’re here to reduce your chances of contracting ebola.
Airborne and Droplet Diseases
Avian/bird flu, hantavirus, and tuberculosis (TB) are all diseases you can catch through airborne droplets and direct contact with infected animals or humans.
You can reduce your chances of contracting these diseases by steering clear of sick birds, live-animal markets, rats and places rats frequent, and people showing signs of TB.
So, Are All These Vaccines Needed to Travel to Africa?
A few African countries actively require specific vaccinations for some groups of travelers. Not getting any vaccine labeled as required may result in you being refused entry or quarantined without proof of vaccination.
Kenya and Botswana, for example, won’t let travelers in from countries with high risk of yellow fever transmission without proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Aside from yellow fever vaccine requirements under certain circumstances, the vaccines on this list are simply recommendations from the CDC and WHO to protect travelers headed to Africa.
Heading to a continent where different vaccination protocols leave large portions of the population without the same level of disease protection as in the United States can spell trouble for travelers coming from more developed nations.
Take your itinerary and travel plans into account to help gauge your risk level and discuss this with your doctor.
If you’re heading to Egypt and won’t be going on safari, you may not need the same vaccines as someone going into the heart of Kenya to see Africa’s big game up close.
Take your health and wellness into your hands before you embark on your trip by getting the recommended vaccines.
It’s the best way to prevent serious illness, disease, and complications down the road – and it’ll help you enjoy Africa’s unique, otherworldly beauty that much more.