Vaccinations and Medications

Allison Sodha

One of the most common questions we receive is regarding vaccinations and/or medications to the Indian Subcontinent. Immunizations are not required to visit India. (Exception: If you are traveling from an area infected with Yellow Fever, you must have a certificate.) We do encourage all travelers to be current on routine immunizations. Sodha Travel also strongly recommends the Hepatitis A vaccine, where exposure occurs through contaminated food and water in developing countries.

The vaccine decision is truly a personal one and the opinions vary among travel clinics, doctors, and travelers. The Center for Disease Control offers an updated list of outbreaks and recommended immunizations, based on the region of travel. Here is their current list of vaccine-preventable diseases in India:

Vaccination or Disease Recommendations or Requirements for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Routine Recommended if you are not up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG) Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A virus infection (see map) where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with "standard" tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.
Hepatitis B Recommended for all unvaccinated persons traveling to or working in countries with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission (see map), especially those who might be exposed to blood or body fluids, have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment (e.g., for an accident).
Typhoid Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in South Asia, especially if staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where exposure might occur through food or water.
Polio Recommended for adult travelers who have received a primary series with either inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) or oral polio vaccine (OPV). They should receive another dose of IPV before departure. For adults, available data do not indicate the need for more than a single lifetime booster dose with IPV.
Japanese encephalitis Recommended if you plan to visit rural farming areas and under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis, see country-specific information.
Rabies Recommended for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in rural areas, involved in activities such as bicycling, camping, or hiking. Also recommended for travelers with significant occupational risks (such as veterinarians), for long-term travelers and expatriates living in areas with a significant risk of exposure, and for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats, carnivores, and other mammals. Children are considered at higher risk because they tend to play with animals, may receive more severe bites, or may not report bites.

There is also the debate about malaria medications. Although it is recommended for certain regions, many people have an adverse reaction to malaria meds - myself included. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and hallucinations. There are antimalarial alternatives, including spraying repellent on exposed skin and taking vitamin A and zinc supplements. Adventure travelers are usually more at risk, due to the nature of their activities and the remote locations.

Depending on the season and region of travel, Sodha Travel will recommend preventative measures. Please consult with your health care professional to decide the best medical plan.

Topics: India, Health, Food and Water

Allison Sodha

Written by Allison Sodha

As the President of Sodha Travel and author of Go! Girl Guides India, Allison has spent almost two decades exploring South Asia. She has a passion for creating experiences fueled by a deeper understanding of local communities.