Immunizations needed for travel abroad?

Originally Published: May 15, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 7, 2014
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Hi Alice,

What travel immunizations/vaccines am I going to need, because I'm going to Rome, Italy? I'm leaving soon, so can you please read and reply to this question as soon as possible? Thanks.

Dear Reader,

Che divertimento! It sounds like you're in for an exciting trip. Not all travel destinations require vaccinations, but this may vary depending on your country of origin, where you are going, and the vaccinations you've already received. For more information about what applies to your specific situation and which countries would require immunization for travel, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers' Health Website. The CDC keeps track of emerging health concerns, so you can be sure to get the most up-to-date vaccine information for travel.

It's best to find out well in advance of your trip (at least ten weeks before your departure date) if you need vaccinations because some vaccinations require time to become effective or to administer a series of shots. If you are at Columbia on the Morningside campus, you can schedule an appointment with a nurse at the CU on the Road Travel Medicine Program to learn more about recommended vaccinations and your general health while traveling. If you are on the CUMC campus, contact the Student Health Service for a travel consult.

Proper vaccinations can help you stay healthy while travelling, as can other medical information (like whether to avoid the water or certain foods). It's also wise to bring a trip-long supply of prescriptions you might need, such as birth control or antibiotics. Some questions to consider before you leave include:

  • What prescriptions do I take regularly?
  • What vaccinations have I already had?
  • Does my health insurance provide international coverage and how does it work?
  • Do I have any special dietary needs?

A final consideration is that, when you are traveling, if you do become ill, the medical system in the country you're visiting may operate in a way you aren't accustomed to. A health insurance agent or a person coordinating your trip (if it's a group trip), can provide advice about how to access medical care while you're abroad. Hopefully this information will help you remain healthy so you can enjoy the adventures that await you.

Save travels!

Ciao,

Alice