Do I need any special vaccinations for my upcoming trip to Costa Rica?

Travel Vaccines

Fun!! We are jealous! The CDC monitors infectious diseases all over the world and makes recommendations for immunizations you might need that aren’t common in the United States.

They keep an up-do-date list for each country. Just go to the CDC Traveler’s Health website and choose your destination.

You’ll see notices about any special health situations for your destination, followed by recommended vaccinations and medications to keep you healthy while you travel.

🛧 Vaccinations that are routine in the U.S. are listed first. If you’re up-to-date on typical vaccines, you won’t need any of these. COVID-19 vaccines are listed next. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for all travelers, to all locations. (Actually, they’re on the regular recommended schedule now–but the Traveler’s Health website still lists them separately.)

🛧 Next, you’ll see a list of special vaccinations. For Costa Rica, vaccination is recommended for Hepatitis A and B (if you’re not already vaccinated–many people are). The measles vaccine can be given a little early for travelers under age 1, if they go to Costa Rica, where measles is common. Rabies and typhoid vaccines are recommended, and yellow fever is required only IF your itinerary also includes locations outside of Costa Rica with yellow fever transmission (the specific locations are listed).

🛧 Malaria is also listed. This is not a vaccine but a prescription medication that can prevent malaria. The benefits of these medications depend on where specifically you’ll be and even what activities you might do. You should discuss them with your clinician.

🛧 The next section lists other non-vaccine-preventable diseases that are common where you’re going and describes how to avoid them. For example, Chagas disease is common in Costa Rica, and the CDC recommends that you take steps to avoid bug bites in order to prevent it.

🛧 You will also see other resources to help you stay infection-free, like tips on how to find clean water and food, stay safe outdoors, prevent bug bites, and avoid sharing bodily fluids. CDC also helpfully recommends some supplies you might want to take with you when you travel.

🤒 If you get sick after your trip, do NOT ignore it. See a clinician, and be sure to tell them about your recent travel.

⚕️Infectious diseases are much more common in most of the world than in the U.S., and some of them are life-threatening. If your clinician doesn’t know you’ve been abroad where different diseases are common, they are all too likely to miss important clues about what could be causing your illness. This information is also detailed on a separate page, here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/after-trip


Of course, the list is different depending on where you are going. In infectious disease, we talk about the “epi triad:”

👩 the host (that’s you),

🦠 the pathogen (that’s the thing that makes you sick),

🗺️ and the environment (that’s where you’re going).

These all play a role in transmission. If you’re going to a different environment, you’ll need to be covered for the specific pathogens that are common in that place.

💉 How do you get travel vaccines? Some clinicians who do routine vaccinations can stock them or special-order them for you. There are also “travel vaccine clinics” which stock more unusual (for the U.S. context) vaccinations. Make your appointment early–sometimes it takes a long time. And if you’re not sure what vaccinations you already have, make an appointment now with a travel clinic or your regular clinician to determine what you might need to get and a schedule for doing so.

Have fun and stay safe! 🌴🏖️🍹


Additional Links

CDC Traveler’s Health Site

Directory of Travel Medicine Clinics

What to do if you get sick after your trip

Link to original Those Nerdy Girls Facebook post