Vaccine Smarts
By Dr. Richard Rupp and Bridget Hawkins, Ph.D.  

Dear VaccineSmarts,

My husband and I are planning to take our two children on a family trip to Thailand this summer. What vaccinations do we need?

League City

Dear Katie,

Vacations abroad can be fun, relaxing and educational for the whole family. When traveling to any new place outside of the United States, you should check with a board-certified physician to make sure you have all of the medications and immunizations required for your family to have a safe trip.

The vaccinations required for your trip will depend on the part of the country you plan to visit, activities you plan for your vacation that may include contact with animals, adventurous food choices, etc. and your overall general health.

Generally speaking, it is good for children and adults to have up-to-date vaccinations such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, flu and the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine if you have not had the chickenpox. Adults should have had two doses of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) and a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine in the last 10 years.

I recall when a friend of ours visiting Panama injured himself when he stepped on a loose plank that had a rusty nail. Boy, was he ever glad that he had had the tetanus-diphtheria shot before his trip.
It also might be a good idea to travel with malaria medication and antibiotics. A good idea is to pack a first-aid kit that includes bandages, antibiotic cream, over-the-counter anti-diarrhea and antihistamine medications because these items might not be easy to find and purchase overseas.

Hepatitis A and typhoid also are good immunizations to receive before traveling because sanitation standards for food preparation might be less stringent in some countries. Both hepatitis A and typhoid can be spread through contaminated food and water. Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before you are allowed to enter the country.

Different countries have additional requirements. A good way to find out which requirements apply to the country you are visiting is to go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel website at

You can select a country and see a list of recommended immunizations and general health precautions to take, depending on what you plan to do while there.

Dr. Richard Rupp is a pediatrician and member of UTMB’s Sealy Center for Vaccine Development. Bridget Hawkins, Ph.D., is the assistant director of the SCVD. This column is supported by a UTMB President’s Cabinet Award to provide information about vaccines. Visit for more information.