Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can I decline shots when traveling to a developing country?"
I hate needles. If I don?t get vaccinations when traveling to certain countries, can I be denied entry into the country?
As with any medical procedure, it is the right of any patient receiving care in the United States to decline treatment for any reason. Vaccinations are no exception. However, you are correct in you concern that this may affect your travel plans. Vaccinations, such as those protecting against yellow fever or hepatitis, are recommended when traveling to certain countries where vaccine-preventable diseases are endemic, which means that a sufficient number of people, animals, bugs, or basic needs such food and drinking water carry a disease, making the likelihood of transmission high enough to outweigh the risks of preventative treatment. Many countries where vaccine-preventable disease are endemic require proof of vaccination before an individual is permitted to enter the country. The laws regulating customs and immigration vary widely from country to country, but fortunately the United States government provides information on what vaccinations are required for travel through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To truly have a safe and healthy traveling experience, it is always a good idea to visit the CDC webpage and review the traveler's health information specific to your destination as well as to visit a primary care physician. There are many reasons why people may be apprehensive about receiving vaccinations, and the pain associated with injection is certainly a valid concern. However, vaccines exist for one reason: to prevent life threatening diseases, and as such they are widely considered to have the most important health impact of any treatment developed in the past 200 years. While no one disputes that it is no fun to get a shot, the fear and pain is brief, and is very likely to save your life. Many measures can be taken to alleviate the discomfort associated with vaccinations, including topical numbing agents to anesthetize the area of injection. I strongly urge you to visit a primary care physician and have a discussion with your doctor about the importance of vaccinations and the measures that are available to make the experience as comfortable as possible for you.
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