June 16th, 2007
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Lots of people wonder which shots are necessary for Ethiopia. Most people will need to an international immunization nurse to get shots for Ethiopia. Check with your county health department to find out where the international travel nurse is located in your area.

Keep in mind that most insurance companies view international travel as optional and will not cover the cost for most international vaccines. If you get the full complement of recommended shots, you can come away with a bill of $500 or more.

John and I talked over our options ahead of time, and so he already had an idea of which shots he wanted to get. The nurse that we talked with was very helpful. She said that nothing is absolutely required. But then she went on to recommend several things. After talking with her for quite a while, John opted to get three vaccines:

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- Hepatitis A
He’ll need a booster in 6-12 months for lifelong immunity, but the nurse said that even the one shot should provide him with 90% immunity for several months.

- MMR booster
Combined with his childhood shots he should now have lifelong immunity. The nurse warned that some people develop a low-grade fever and aches a week or two after having this shot.

- Polio
This shot was the inactive version, since the active polio has a small but real risk of giving a person polio. Coupled with what John had as a child this should give lifelong immunity.

Since John is a health care worker, he’d already had the Hepatitis B series of shots. And since he’d stepped on a nail in 2004, he was also up-to-date on his tetanus. Both of these are recommended for Ethiopia.

He opted not to get the typhoid shot. The nurse talked over food safety precautions with us. Since we are not traveling outside Addis (elevation 8,000 feet), John also opted not to get the yellow fever vaccine. it is unlikely we will be exposed to malaria in Addis. She reminded us, however, that mosquito repellant is still wise, since there are a few mosquitos in Addis. She suggested that we look for a cream repellant since in her understanding aerosol cans are no longer allowed on airplanes, even in checked luggage. (Can anyone confirm this?) You can also get a mosquito spray to spray onto clothing to ward off mosquitos. We found it at REI.

Since John only ended up getting three shots, he only ended up paying $120, a reasonable amount of money to invest in being a little safer on our trip to Ethiopia. After talking to the nurse, we also had a clear idea of what we’ll need to do to protect our two year old who is traveling with us to Ethiopia. Since she is up to date on all recommended shots for children her age, the only thing she needs is the Hepatitis A shot. Along with sensible food safety and mosquito precautions, we should all be in good shape to have a safe trip to Addis.

13 Responses to “Ethiopia: Which immunizations are required for travel?”

  1. Darla says:

    The nurse didn’t recommend Meningococcal vaccine most likely because you are not traveling during the outbreak time of December thru June, but anyone else traveling during these months should consider it. Here is a link to the CDC info page:

    http://www2.ncid.cdc.gov/travel/yb/utils/ybGet.asp?section=dis&obj=menin.htm

  2. buffra says:

    If people *do* decide to get the yellow fever vaccine, they should be prepared for several hours of feeling miserable.

    I had it before going to Peru (with a class group) and nearly all of us were sick. It struck very suddenly, half-way through the day — a fever, shakiness, and basically a need to lie down. But it passed just as quickly, less than 24 hours, and is good for 10 years.

  3. lynn33 says:

    My husband and I are currently taking a series of shots for travel later in the year (hopefully!)

    Do ask if your insurance will cover the shots; so far everything has been covered.

    Also, in IL we were told that everyone living in the household with the new child must have the Hep A & B shots as a precaution for accidental exposure. Our 8 year old son is not traveling with us but is getting the shots.

    Better to play it safe!

  4. Excellent point, Lynn. Our entire family (except my hubby) did the Hep A series when our two year old came home in 2005, so he and the two year old were the only ones who still needed it.

  5. shanawhite78 says:

    We traveled with aerosol cans both to Addis in January, and Hawaii in April, with no problems.

  6. leeshalou says:

    Dear Mary,
    I traveled to Cambodia in March/April and they allowed all the aerosol cans I packed in my checked bags. You may only carry one small ziploc bag on your carry on and I had a small aerosol can in it and it was fine too. Also, I did get lots of my shots free at the hospital I worked at or maybe you can at the local health dept. What about typhoid? It was one of the big ones recommended for me. Alecia

  7. Alecia,

    I think there are a variety of OK ways to do the shots. Some people opt to get EVERYTHING that’s offered. Others go to Ethiopia without having one shot. I think you just have to inform yourself and make the decision regarding shots that gives you the most peace of mind.

    Mary

  8. cknbus says:

    Has anyone gotten the yellow fever shot for a 3 year old? How did they react? We would like to travel outside of Addis with our 3 year old but are concerned about the yellow fever shot. I have a horrible fear of that shot because my university runs and Engineers without Borders program and a group was going to Guatemala to do some work, they all got yellow fever shots and one of the girls died from it. It seems pretty rare, and I don’t know if she had a previous medical condition, but scary just the same.

  9. Check with your doctor, but I personally would not give a yellow fever shot to a 3 year old. I WOULD minimize exposed skin, use plenty of mosquito spray and not be out around dawn or dusk. A bed net would be a good idea too.

    Just my take on it….
    Mary

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