The following vaccinations will provide adequate protection for most travellers. For the most up to date vaccination advice, you should search by the country that you are visiting on the NHS Fit for Travel website, or the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
This page contains vaccination information about conditions starting with P-Z. The previous page contains vaccination information about conditions starting with A-M.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a serious infection that is caused by a virus. It is spread through contact with human faeces (stools), contaminated food and water, or person-to-person contact.
High risk areas: several countries in Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. In particular, Nigeria, Niger, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
In the UK, children are vaccinated against polio under the childhood vaccination programme. This means that many people in the UK will already be fully vaccinated against polio.
The polio vaccination is recommended for anyone travelling to a high risk area who:
- has not been vaccinated before,
- has not been fully vaccinated (in the UK you should receive five doses of the polio vaccine), or
- had their last dose of the polio vaccine 10 years ago, or longer.
Children who are under 10 years of age will receive their polio vaccine as part of the childhood vaccination programme.
Children who are 10 years of age, or over, and adults who have never been vaccinated, will need to have three doses of the vaccine, each one month apart. You can have a booster dose 5-10 years after this, followed by a second booster dose after another 10 years, and you will then be protected for life.
Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated against polio (received five doses of the vaccine), or who has not had a booster dose in the last 10 years, will need to have a booster dose of the polio vaccine.
The polio vaccine is usually combined with other vaccines, such as diphtheria and tetanus. The polio vaccine is not suitable for infants who are under two months of age.
Rabies causes spasms, extreme thirst, fear of water (hydrophobia), madness, and paralysis, and it is almost always fatal. Rabies is usually spread through the saliva of an animal which is carrying the virus.
High risk areas: rabies is found in animals almost everywhere, but most human cases occur in Asia, Africa, and South and Latin America.
Vaccination against rabies is usually carried out as a precautionary measure, in case you are bitten by an animal that might have rabies and medical attention is not available.
The rabies vaccine is recommended for anyone who is:
- travelling to an area where rabies is common in animals (such as jungle habitats), for one month or more, and where there is no access to prompt, reliable, and safe medical care,
- travelling to an area where rabies is common in animals for less than one month, but you may be exposed to rabies because of your travel activities, such as trekking in a jungle, or
- working abroad in close contact with animals, such as veterinarians or animal handlers at zoos.
There are currently two rabies vaccines that are available in the UK. Vaccination usually requires a course of three doses for protection. The second dose is given seven days after the first. The third dose is given 21, or 28 days, after the first, depending on which vaccine is used.
Vaccination should be completed before your departure to allow your body to develop full immunity. Depending on which vaccine is used, a booster dose will be needed every 2-3 years, or every 2-5 years, to ensure continued protection.
There is no minimum age for one of the rabies vaccines, and the other is usually given from one year of age onwards.
Tetanus is a serious infection that affects the body's nervous system, and it can be fatal. Tetanus bacteria are present in soil and manure and can enter the body through a wound or cut.
High-risk areas: tetanus is found throughout the world. Any location where medical attention may not be available if you hurt yourself is considered to be a high risk area.
In the UK, children are vaccinated against tetanus under the childhood vaccination programme. This means that many people in the UK will already be fully vaccinated against tetanus.
A tetanus vaccination is usually recommended for anyone who:
- has not been vaccinated before,
- has not been fully vaccinated (in the UK you should receive five doses of the tetanus vaccine), or
- is travelling to a country with limited medical facilities, and whose last dose of the tetanus vaccine was more than 10 years ago.
Children who are under 10 years of age will receive their tetanus vaccine as part of the childhood vaccination programme.
Children who are 10 years of age, or over, and adults who have never been vaccinated, will need to have three doses of the vaccine, each one month apart. You can have a booster dose 5-10 years after this, followed by a second booster dose after another 10 years, and then you will be protected for life.
Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated (received five doses of the vaccine), or has not had a booster dose in the last 10 years, will need to have a booster dose of the tetanus vaccine
The tetanus vaccine is usually combined with other vaccines, such as diphtheria and polio. The tetanus vaccine is not suitable for infants who are under two months of age.
Tick-borne encephalitis is a serious infection that can cause flu-like symptoms and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and can be fatal. It is usually spread through tick bites, but it can also be caught through drinking unpasteurised milk.
High risk areas: the far eastern part of the former Soviet Union, including eastern Russia and Siberia, some parts of China and Japan, western Russia, Austria, Hungary, the Balkans, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Scandinavia. Tick-borne encephalitis is mainly found in forested areas.
The tick-borne encephalitis vaccine is recommended for anyone who:
- plans to live in a high risk area,
- plans to work in a high risk area - for example, as a farmer or forest worker, or
- plans to travel to high risk areas during late spring or summer, particularly if camping or hiking.
The vaccination requires a course of three doses for full protection. The second dose is given 1-3 months after the first, and provides immunity for about one year. A third dose, given 5-12 months after the second, provides immunity for up to three years.
A booster dose can be given up to three years after the third dose for continued protection. Boosters can continue to be given every 3-5 years if protection is still necessary.
If there is not enough time before you travel to complete a normal course of the vaccination, you may be able to have an accelerated course. This will involve two doses being given two weeks apart. Two weeks after the second dose, 90% of people who receive the accelerated course will have immunity against the condition.
The tick-borne encephalitis vaccine is not suitable for children who are under one year of age.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that is spread through droplets from the coughs and sneezes of people with the condition. It can cause a cough, weight loss, and night sweats, and can usually be cured with antibiotics.
High risk areas: South America, Africa (sub-Saharan and north west) and the tropical Asia-Pacific regions, including the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia.
The TB vaccine may be recommended for:
- anyone who has not been vaccinated, depending on where they are travelling to and what they will be doing, and
- children under 16 years of age who are going to be living or working with local people in a high risk area for more than three months.
The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) provides protection against TB. The vaccine used to be given to all children at 15 years of age, but this was stopped in 2005.
If you need to be vaccinated against TB, you will first be given a Mantaux skin test. This checks how sensitive you are to the TB vaccine. Your skin reaction will be checked 2-10 days later. A positive reaction suggests that you have already been infected with the bacteria that cause TB and you may already be immune. If so, you will not need to have the vaccine.
If you have a negative result to the Mantaux test, you will be given the vaccine as a single injection. It provides 70-80% protection against TB.
The BCG can be given from birth, and children who are under six years of age do not usually need to have the Mantaux test first.
Typhoid fever is a potentially fatal infection that causes diarrhoea and a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over. It is spread through contact with human faeces (stools), usually as a result of poor sanitation and personal hygiene.
High risk areas: typhoid is found throughout the world, but it is more likely to occur in areas where there is poor sanitation and hygiene. In particular, risk areas include Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South and South East Asia, the Middle East, and Central and South America.
The typhoid fever vaccination is recommended for anyone who is travelling to a high risk area. In particular, it is recommended for people visiting the above areas who will:
- be staying with, or visiting, the local population, or
- have frequent, or prolonged, exposure to conditions where sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor.
Ideally, the typhoid vaccine should be given at least one month before you travel but, if necessary, it can be given closer to your travel date. The vaccine is not 100% effective, so you will still need to take precautions to avoid contaminated food or water, and pay careful attention to your personal hygiene.
A single injection of the vaccine protects against typhoid fever for about three years. A combined typhoid and hepatitis A vaccine is also available.
The typhoid fever vaccine is not suitable for infants who are under two years of age.
Yellow fever can cause headaches, a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over, bleeding, and it can be fatal. It is passed to humans through bites of infected mosquitoes.
High risk areas: parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South America.
Some countries require you to have an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) before they will let you into the country. The certificate proves that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever.
The yellow fever vaccination is recommended for anyone who is:
- travelling to, or living in, an area or country where yellow fever is found, or
- travelling to a country that requires an ICVP for entry.
Anyone who is nine months of age, or over, can be given a single dose of the vaccine that will provide protection against yellow fever for 10 years. After this time, a booster dose will be required.
You will need to have the yellow fever vaccine a minimum of 10 days before you are due to travel. This is because your ICVP is only valid 10 days after your vaccination and then remains valid for 10 years.
Children who are 6-9 months of age should only be vaccinated against yellow fever if the risk of developing the condition during travel is unavoidable. The yellow fever vaccine is not suitable for children who are under six months of age.
The yellow fever vaccination is only available from designated centres. You can find your local centre on the NaTHNaC (National Travel Health Network and Centre) website.
If you cannot be vaccinated against yellow fever for medical reasons (or for infants who are under nine months of age), your GP may be able to issue you with a medical waiver letter. This will explain why you are unable to have the vaccine.