Getting your shots: Vaccinations needed for your African Safari

Our consultants often deal with clients who are anxious about various medical concerns before their trips, the main one being what vaccinations are needed for Africa. It’s not quite as simple as ‘Africa’ – considering Africa covers over 30 million km2 – and different areas have different vaccination requirements.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive blog, detailing exactly what shots you need for the countries in southern and East Africa that our safaris visit, when to get them, and where.

IMPORTANT NOTE/DISCLAIMER:

This is a general, basic overview of some vaccinations needed for safaris. Before travelling to Africa, every person should visit their own doctor or local travel clinic, well in advance of their departure, to obtain advice. Each person is different, has different underlying conditions, allergies, etc., so a pre-trip health check and discussion of what vaccines and malaria prophylaxis are necessary, and other health concerns, is imperative.

This blog does not replace the advice of your doctor/travel nurse.

ShutterstockRhinos - Shutterstock

Medical Insurance

This is a non-negotiable must. Before coming on safari, be sure to get good medical insurance, including medical evacuation. Many areas visited are far from medical facilities and difficult to reach. Should there be a medical emergency, you want to feel safe in the knowledge that your insurance will cover any eventuality. Check out our full section on medical insurance on how to get it.

Which vaccinations to get for your African safari

The only shot that is compulsory in some countries (i.e. you won’t be allowed across the border without proof of vaccination) is the yellow fever vaccine, but there are many recommended shots in others. We have a whole blog on yellow fever, so head over there for all things yellow fever, including a map of where it is endemic.

ShutterstockGiraffes - Shutterstock

Remember to check that all your routine childhood vaccinations – which in most countries include tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, TB and meningitis – were done and get boosters where necessary. You can also discuss getting various optional shots, like the flu and pneumococcal shots, with your healthcare provider/travel clinic.

The choice of whether to get the recommended vaccinations or not depends on a number of things including:

  • Where you’re travelling to in each country e.g. rural vs. urban
  • Local outbreaks e.g. cholera
  • Length of stay
  • What your accommodation will be e.g. camping vs. 5-star hotel
  • Activities you’re going to be involved in e.g. swimming in dams, helping out at a clinic, being involved in veterinary work
  • Your medical history e.g. underlying conditions, medicines which may affect immunity
  • Vaccination history i.e. did you receive all your childhood immunisations?

Local outbreaks/Travel warnings

ShutterstockHippo - Shutterstock

Outbreaks of diseases such as cholera do, at times, occur and this will mean that you may need to get a specific vaccine for that outbreak (or, in severe cases, avoid travel to some places). The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) publishes these travel warnings and it’s advisable to keep an eye on these in the build-up to your safari.

When should you get your shots for your safari in Africa

Remember that vaccinations may take a little while to work and some are given over a couple of days/weeks, sequentially. This means you may need to visit your doctor/travel clinic on a couple of occasions if you need to get numerous shots, so go as early as possible.

ShutterstockSnufflin' about in Africa - Shutterstock

To help you plan, here we’ll list the most common shots recommended for an African safari (there are numerous other vaccines that you could consider prior to your African safari, depending on all risk factors), how the disease they protect you against is spread, how long they take to work and who the American Advisory on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Centre for Disease Control and/or World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends gets them. Later in the blog, we will list each country our safaris visit and specify what’s needed for where.

Cholera

Transmission: food and water
Recommended for: at-risk travellers to an area of active cholera transmission
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 10-14 days

Diphtheria

Transmission: person-to-person (air-borne)
Recommended for: all travellers should be up-to-date with diphtheria toxoid vaccine
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: Boosters are given every 10 years

Hepatitis A

Transmission: person-to-person, food and water
Recommended for: all travellers to countries with high or intermediate HAV endemicity 
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 1 month/as soon as possible (3 doses)

Hepatitis B

Transmission: blood and body fluids
Recommended for: all unvaccinated travellers to areas with prevalence of HBV infection 
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: as soon as possible (3 doses)

Meningitis

Transmission: person-to-person (air-borne)
Recommended for: travellers to parts of sub-Saharan Africa known as the “meningitis belt”
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 10 days

Polio

Transmission: Faecal-oral, oral-oral
Recommended for: travellers to areas that have polio should ensure that they have completed the recommended age-appropriate polio vaccine series and that adults have received a single lifetime IPV booster dose. In addition, a booster dose for certain adult travellers to some countries that border areas with polio is recommended
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 4 weeks (booster)

Rabies

Transmission: animal bites
Recommended for: travellers to rabies-endemic countries who may come in contact with animals
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 1 month (3 doses)

Tetanus

Transmission: non-intact skin, injuries/bites from contaminated objects
Recommended for: travellers who do not have up-to-date immunisation (10-yearly booster)

Typhoid

Transmission: food and water, faecal-oral
Recommended for: travellers to areas where there is an increased risk of exposure
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 2 weeks

Yellow fever

Transmission: mosquito-borne
Compulsory for: all travellers ≥ 9 months of age to areas with yellow fever risk
How long before entering area should the vaccine be given: > 10 days

Where to get vaccinations

The best place to go and get advice on what shots to get for your African safari is a travel clinic. Most major towns across the world have specialist travel clinics, so seek out the nearest one. If there isn’t one close, get your doctor to call one and then you can decide which shots you should have for the specific countries you’re visiting.

While you’re at the doctor, have a general check-up, stock up on any meds you take chronically (and get an official prescription, with generic names. Keep a copy with your passport). Remember that some medications may not be available in the countries you visit on your safari, so go prepared. If you want an overview on all things health-related, see our blog, The Complete African Safari Medical Guide.

Country-specific vaccinations

What shots do you need for South Africa?

ShutterstockDrinking hole buffalos - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Namibia?

ShutterstockNamibia safari - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Botswana?

ShutterstockZebras - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Zimbabwe?

ShutterstockLion - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Mozambique?

ShutterstockMozambique - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Malawi?

ShutterstockMalawi birdlife - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Zambia?

ShutterstockCheetahs - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Tanzania?

ShutterstockSerengeti safari - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination, if travelling from or transited (> 12 hours spent) through a yellow fever endemic country
Recommended vaccinations: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Kenya?

ShutterstockFlamingos - Shutterstock

Required shots: proof of yellow fever vaccination for all travellers travelling from a country with risk of YFV transmission and all of those visiting yellow fever-endemic regions of the country
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for Uganda?

ShutterstockMom and baby gorilla - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: yellow fever vaccination recommended for all travellers and proof required if traveling from YFV endemic country
Recommended shots: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

What shots do you need for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)?

ShutterstockAfrican mountain gorilla - Shutterstock

Required vaccinations: proof of yellow fever vaccination for all travellers
Recommended: routine vaccinations should be up-to-date; hepatitis A; hepatitis B, if going to be exposed to blood/body fluids (including sexual contact); typhoid, if going to be travelling in rural areas
Consider: cholera, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, flu, meningococcal and others (dependent on risk)

Vaccinations are not 100% effective

Please remember that no vaccine protects you 100%. The most important way to not get an infectious disease – after vaccination – is to avoid the causes.

This means, amongst other measures, mosquito repellants and nets and covering up between dusk and dawn, to avoid mosquito bites (yellow fever and malaria), drinking bottled water (no ice!), being careful about what you eat and washing fruit well before eating, using condoms and avoiding risky behaviour.

On the matter of malaria, for which there is no vaccination, chemoprophylaxis is recommended in endemic areas (many of the places our trips go). See our blog Malaria made simple.

Planning well and being prepared = dream safari

That, in a nutshell, is what you need to do regarding getting your vaccines after you’ve booked your dream African safari. As discussed, only the yellow fever vaccine is compulsory – if going to, or passing through, a yellow fever endemic country.

ShutterstockDesert fun on safari - Shutterstock

The rest of the shots recommended for your African safari can be decided on, in consultation with your travel health consultant, according to the current risks in the areas you’re travelling to and your personal health.

Here’s to a magnificent, healthy African safari!

Pinterest LinkGet your shots - Pinterest Link


If you liked this post, these trips cover similar ground…


Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

comments powered by Disqus

Places Mentioned in this Post

Similar & Related Blog Posts

Below you’ll find further reading and articles related or similar to this post.

Malaria Made Simple

CayoboComing on safari to Africa? Worried about malaria? Here's a simple guide to malaria - what it is, where it is and, most importantly, what to do to avoid it. Read on

Budget Safaris to Malaria Free Game Parks in South Africa

Mosquito ImageAre you looking for an African Safari experience, without the hassle of taking anti-malaria medication? There are some excellent malaria-free game parks, especially in South Africa. Read on

Yellow Fever: What You Need To Know

US Dept of AgricultureEverything you need to know about Yellow Fever. Where it is found, how to protect yourself from it, etc. Essential pre-travelling reading. Read on

The Complete African Safari Medical Guide

Dan MitlerA comprehensive guide to all things medical when coming on safari. Read on

5 Must See South African Movies to Watch Before you Travel

For most of us, it’s always good to do a little bit of research about your travel destination. But not everything is about destinations, time tables and itineraries. To get in the mood and feel the flavour of South Africa, pull up a chair and get some popcorn on. These 5 movies will set the tone for your coming adventure. Read on

What to Take on African Safaris - An Easy Guide to Packing

Pocket Knife by Stephen JenningsHere’s a handy guide to packing for your African Safari. A list of some indispensable items to take on a safari in Africa, as well as some handy extras to make your trip all the more enjoyable. Read on

Ebola: What You Need To Know

With the Ebola outbreak in West Africa causing worldwide panic, many people are considering cancelling their safaris. Here we give a simple overview of the disease, risks, and why - at present - cancellation is not necessary for safaris in eastern an southern Africa.. Read on

Safety on African Safaris

andytimeMany people who book safaris through us have questions regarding their safety, both in the bush and in the urban areas of Africa. Here we give a simple overview of what to do and not to do, to make your trip to Africa safe and enjoyable. Read on

Tips for Tipping: The Definitive Guide On Safari

KateA definitive guide for travellers unsure of tipping etiquette in Africa. We'll tell you who to tip, and how much, helping you to budget on your safari in Africa. Read on
Show us some FB Love

Our TrustPilot Reviews

Follow @RealAfroSafaris