Travel Vaccinations for South America

South America is filled with extraordinary exotic escapes - from scenic mountain hikes to gorgeous beaches, the incredible Amazon rainforest and river, deserts, and remarkable ecological and cultural diversity.

If you are planning travel, there are a range of vaccinations for South America that you may be recommended to receive. The vaccinations depend on where you are travelling and other factors.

Ensure you can enjoy your trip safely and put your health first by receiving all the required immunisations with plenty of time to spare so you can build immunity. You will want to start planning to get travel vaccinations for South America as soon as you know for sure that you are going to go.

Getting sick while travelling in South America can result in a premature end to your vacation or even require a hospitalisation. There is no reason to risk this when all the vaccinations required for travel to South America are readily available in Australia.

Plan to meet with a travel clinic or doctor to set up your vaccination schedule as soon as possible and no later than 6 to 12 weeks prior to your departure date. It is important to call a travel clinic quickly because some of your vaccinations for South America may need to be spaced apart.

When you meet with your doctor, they will review your health history, schedule a list of recommended vaccinations, provide travel advice and a travel health kit to ensure that you stay healthy throughout your trip.

Recommended Vaccinations for South America

The recommended vaccinations for South America that you receive will vary depending on the country you are travelling to, your immunisation history, age, and other factors.

Many people receive long lasting childhood immunisations for the illnesses below, but some people may need a booster before they depart to South America.

Your doctor will help you check if you are up to date with all your childhood vaccinations and your current immunisation status.

  • Hepatitis A
    This is a viral illness affecting the liver which can be transmitted through contaminated food or water. This vaccination is recommended for most travellers to South America.
  • Hepatitis B
    This is another viral illness which affects the liver. It is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, during sex or when receiving a tattoo or being exposed to a contaminated needle. Hepatitis B is now considered a routine vaccination and many Australians under 30 have had this as part of the standard vaccine schedule. This vaccination is also recommended for most South American travellers.
  • Yellow Fever
    Some regions of South America have mosquitoes which carry the yellow fever virus. If you are travelling to these regions and will be exposed to mosquitoes, you will be recommended to receive a yellow fever vaccination. The vaccination is required to enter some South American countries and is also needed to return to Australia after visiting some South American countries. It can only be given at centres authorised to provide the vaccination.
  • Typhoid
    This bacterial illness is transmitted through contaminated water or food. It occurs in developing countries more frequently and you may be recommended to receive one if you are travelling to a developing South American country.
  • Cholera
    A cholera vaccination is not typically recommended for travel to South America. The cholera vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of travellers’ diarrhoea for a limited time after vaccination. For this reason, it may be advised for people with underlying medical conditions. Following safe food and water guidelines and hand washing will reduce risk of infection from this and other food and water borne diseases.
  • Rabies
    This is a fatal viral illness that is transmitted by the bite or scratch of an infected mammal. You may be recommended to receive a rabies vaccine prior to travel depending on risk. Please note if you have not had prior rabies vaccinations, post exposure treatment may require a blood product. This blood product is difficult to obtain in South America and in some cases, patients may need to be flown to the USA to receive it.

Other Routine Vaccinations Recommended for South America

The following vaccinations for South America may be given depending on your prior immunisation status, where you are travelling, and whether a booster is warranted or not. Your travel doctor will help you determine this.

  • MMR
    Most people receive one or two doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in childhood. If you don’t have an immunisation history or evidence of current immunity you may need to receive one or two doses. Currently anyone born subsequent to 1966, without a history of diseases or two vaccinations, will be recommended to receive a booster vaccination.
  • Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis
    This combined vaccination may need to be given as a booster for most travellers to South America if you have not received it in the last 10 years.
  • Influenza
    This is typically recommended annually for most travellers. The vaccine changes each year due to changes in the predominant influenza strain.
  • Chickenpox
    If you do not have evidence of a prior chickenpox infection or vaccination, you will likely receive vaccination before you depart.
  • Polio
    This is a routine vaccination with a single booster that may be recommended. Most are vaccinated as children.
  • Malaria
    This and other mosquito borne illnesses such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya are endemic in parts of South America. You may need malaria medication before you depart to South America. There are no vaccinations or tablets for the other mosquito borne diseases. Using insect repellent and covering up is advised to reduce the risk of these illnesses for limiting malaria risk.

Health Precautions When Travelling to South America

To avoid further illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea, be sure to frequently wash your hands and practice safe eating and drinking practices.

Consume only properly prepared foods and water that is known to be safe to drink. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers with you at all times in case you temporarily lack access to soap and water.

Wear long sleeves and insect repellent when outdoors and stay away from areas with mosquitoes. Avoid undercooked foods or foods that have been directly handled by others, stick to freshly cooked hot meals and drink bottled water.

You may consider taking a kit with you to treat common medical problems including diarrhoea. Discuss this at your consultation.

Many travel to South America to trek in the Andes. If you intend to do this speak with your doctor at your appointment about altitude illness and medication for prevention.

Please note that the listed vaccinations for South America mentioned above are simply a general guide. You must meet with a travel doctor to get the proper customised list of recommended vaccinations based on where you are travelling, your health history and other factors.