The third most popular international destination for American travelers (after Canada), and the first European destination on the list, the United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and is known for its royal family, cultural contributions from Shakespeare to The Beatles, and iconic landmarks including Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Stonehenge, and modern feats like the London Eye. The country is also renowned for its elite education institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge, its stunning natural landscapes, and its passion for sports from soccer to rugby to cricket.
If you’re planning a trip to across the pond, it’s important to know what vaccinations are recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for travel to this destination. (Be sure to visit your doctor at least a month prior to your trip to get any vaccines or medicines you may need.)
Recommended vaccines for travel to the United Kingdom
As of November 2023, here are the current CDC guidelines:
Vaccines the CDC recommends prior to every trip include those for chickenpox (varicella), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP), flu (influenza), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), polio, and shingles.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection. It spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets or small particles containing the virus, which can then enter through the eyes, nose, or mouth of an uninfected person (or contaminate surfaces, in some cases).
For everyone who is eligible, the CDC also recommends being up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is primarily spread when an uninfected person consumes food or water that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person, or when an infected person uses dirty hands to prepare food.
This vaccine is recommended for most travelers and is particularly recommended for those who will be engaging in higher-risk activities, such as visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas, or eating street food.
Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread when blood, semen, or another bodily fluid from someone who is infected enters the body of someone who is not infected, as can happen during sexual contact, sharing drug-injection equipment, or during birth from mother to baby.
The CDC recommends this vaccine for unvaccinated travelers younger than 60 going to the United Kingdom, and notes that those 60 years old and up may get vaccinated prior to traveling to the United Kingdom.
Measles is a serious, highly contagious, airborne disease that can lead to a variety of complications, including death. It is spread when an uninfected person comes into contact with infected nasal or throat secretions (for example, from coughing or sneezing) or breathes the air that was breathed by someone with the condition.
The CDC recommends that infants 6 to 11 months old who are traveling internationally get one dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before their trip. (The dose does not count as part of the routine childhood vaccination series.)
(Note that measles is also listed among the CDC’s “routine vaccinations” above.)
Rabies is a viral disease most often spread through the bite of an infected, or “rabid,” animal. It infects the central nervous system in mammals, causing disease in the brain and, ultimately, death.
The CDC notes that the United Kingdom is free of dog rabies but that the disease may still be present in wildlife species (especially bats). The organization recommends rabies vaccination prior to a trip to the United Kingdom only for those who will be working directly with wildlife on their trip, such as veterinarians, animal handlers, field biologists, or laboratory workers who will be working with specimens from mammals.
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral infectious disease that affects the central nervous system. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks and is present in many parts of Europe and Asia. The sickness often occurs in two phases, with symptoms of the first phase including fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and nausea, and the second phase involving the neurological system with symptoms of meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
TBE has been found in specific areas in the United Kingdom, with three probable or confirmed human cases in England since 2019 and one in Scotland in 2022, plus infected ticks found in Thetford Forest, Hampshire/Dorset border, New Forest, and New Yorkshire Moors.
The CDC recommends the TBE vaccine for people who are “traveling to a TBE-endemic area and will have extensive exposure to ticks based on their planned outdoor activities and itinerary.”
Prior to any travel to the United Kingdom, be sure to check the official CDC Traveler’s Health page, as vaccination recommendations may have been updated since the publication of this article.
As you prepare to delve into the UK’s rich history and culture, from the bustling streets of London to the serene landscapes of Scotland, ensure your health is well protected. With the right vaccinations, you can safely enjoy everything from exploring historic castles and museums to experiencing the vibrant local cuisine and sports events. Remember, staying informed and vaccinated is key to a worry-free and enriching travel experience.
Disclaimer of Medical Advice: This information does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual needs.