Resource Information on Immunizations
Unfortunately, for many of us, our first intimate experience of African culture comes through poking by hypodermic needles for our immunizations. Participants normally ask for advice on what shots they need. We’ve put this sheet together to respond to those questions. Many thanks here to Katie Reid, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Tanzania who has revised this document with our medical people in Tanzania and has advised us about the immunizations choices as you prepare for travel to Tanzania.
Here we emphasize that each participant needs to make this choice under the advisement of his or her own physician. We simply provide this sheet as a resource to you and your doctor as you make your decision.
Where We’ll Be in Tanzania, East Africa.
In order to make the best decision about immunizations, you’ll need to know where in Tanzania we plan to go. While we’ll be spending most of our time in Mwanza, we will also travel to Musoma and the Serengeti National Game Park.
Required and Recommended Immunizations
Friends Across Borders requires that everyone take malaria prophylactic. See recommendation below. Tanzania does not require any immunizations for entry for visitors coming from the United States or Europe, nor does the United States require any immunizations for reentry from Tanzania. Nevertheless, because Tanzania requires yellow fever vaccinations from travelers from other countries, MKLM requires that FAB travelers receive a yellow fever vaccination prior to the trip. See comment about Yellow Fever Vaccination below.
Each person needs to become informed and make a choice about which immunizations to take. How does one make these choices? Participants approach the issue from a range of philosophies. Some will want to take every possible immunization. Others will prefer the minimum. It’s up to you.
You are going to have a wonderful experience! Please do not let rumors of extremely rare diseases haunt you. Healthy American travelers like you may pick-up what is called “traveler’s diarrhea.” There is no special immunization against this hazard. Bring along Imodium and Pepto-Bismol pills, drink bottled water, rest, and let your own immune system do the rest. Prevention is your best weapon. Just follow the guidelines regarding what you put into your mouth, wash hands frequently with soap (bring a liquid antibacterial soap) and water, and bring bug repellant with DEET.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has some immunization recommendations for your specific African experience:
- Malaria: (Again that mosquito!) You will need a prescription for Doxycycline or Malarone for prophylaxis. Doxycycline is cheap, side effects are minimal. Malarone is expensive but well worth the cost for prevention. Larium (Mefloquine) is effective, some people report “flu-like” symptoms or strange dreams and behavior.
- Yellow Fever: Travelers who proceed to Tanzania non-stop from uninfected areas are not required to be immunized against yellow fever. However, travelers from infected areas ARE required to be immunized. This can often cause confusion at immigration in Tanzania. Many airport officials may want to see proof that you have been immunized for this disease and they are not always as up-to-date on the law as one would like. It has happened that people had to have the Yellow Fever Immunization upon their arrival in country. This seems to be at the discretion of the immigration officer. Therefore, FAB requires all participants to get a yellow fever vaccination in order to avoid any difficulty upon arrival. By the way, mosquitoes transmit this. Anti-mosquito repellant or cream are very useful particularly in the coastal regions. Please seek further medical advice from your General Practitioner (GP) beforehand. Our advice is to have the injection before your arrival here and not leave it to chance.
- Hepatitis A: This is transmitted through water, food, and poor sanitation. The choice for immunization is your decision.
- Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Polio are highly recommended. Tetanus/Diphtheria is good for 10 years, but a booster is needed beyond that amount of time. Polio should be repeated once in adulthood for travel to Tanzania.
A note about Ebola: I would like to ease your worries about this disease. There have been no cases of Ebola in Tanzania or Kenya. The Ebola outbreak occurred on the North Western side of the African continent, whereas Tanzania and Kenya are located on the South Eastern side. This is a large continent, and Ebola was much farther from Tanzania than Alaska is from Florida, so you have nothing to fear.