Vaccines for Kenya and Tanzania – Do I need a Yellow Fever Shot?

Enjoy your worry-free safari after receiving vaccines for Kenya and Tanzania from a travel clinic first.

As the world resumes travel, Kenya and Tanzania have reclaimed their spots as top adventure travel destinations. An African safari remains a must for any traveler’s bucket list. You can enjoy a full safari experience in either of these East African countries, and many travelers choose to visit both in the same trip. After selecting your safari tours and booking your travel, your next step is to visit your local travel clinic. Africa is an alluring and exotic destination, but it also presents unique health risks. It’s crucial to get all the necessary travel vaccinations, including the yellow fever vaccine, to protect yourself against the tropical diseases found in Africa. Vaccines for Kenya and Tanzania are essential for a safe and enjoyable trip.

Yellow Fever Vaccine for Kenya and Tanzania

To begin with, it is important to understand the difference between a required and a recommended vaccine. Under International Health Regulations, many countries require you to have a Yellow Fever vaccine, meaning you must show official certification to enter. The Yellow Fever vaccine is also recommended to prevent acquiring this serious and life-threatening disease, which has no treatment.

International Health Regulations designate Kenya as a Yellow Fever endemic country, whereas Tanzania is not. This significantly impacts your itinerary planning for two reasons: 1) You must have a Yellow Fever vaccine to travel from Kenya to Tanzania, but not from Tanzania to Kenya. 2) The Yellow Fever vaccine is highly recommended for travel to Kenya, but not if your travel is limited to Tanzania. And, just to complicate the issue, Zanzibar (an island that belongs to Tanzania), has recently been requiring travelers to produce proof of Yellow Fever vaccination, even though this contradicts existing health regulations.

Getting the Yellow Fever Vaccine

The decision to get a Yellow Fever vaccine is not simple. The rules are complicated and requirements depend on the details of your specific itinerary. Even though the Yellow Fever vaccine is highly effective, it can also cause side effects in some individuals. You can only obtain a Yellow Fever vaccine at a certified Yellow Fever site because it requires a consultation with a travel health specialist who will review your medical history and itinerary to determine whether a Yellow Fever vaccine is both appropriate and safe for you. The travel health specialist at your local travel clinic is still the best person to decide whether you need the vaccine and to make sure you will not be turned away at the border without one.

Routine Vaccines for Kenya and Tanzania 

Before you travel to Africa, or anywhere outside the country, first ensure that you are up to date with all of your “routine” vaccinations, which are those you should have even if you aren’t traveling. Routine vaccinations include TdaP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), COVID-19, and influenza (the flu shot). These diseases are more common in most resource-poor countries, whose populations have lower vaccination rates. Measles and polio are fairly rare in the US, but outbreaks of measles and polio have been occurring recently throughout Africa, including in both Tanzania and Kenya. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases on the planet. You need to have two documented MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccines during your lifetime to have protective immunity. A single adult polio booster may also be recommended for travel to certain African countries.

Hepatitis A Vaccine 

Hepatitis A, a serious viral disease transmitted by food and water, is the second most common vaccine-preventable disease in the world, after the flu. The HepA vaccine is part of the routine immunization schedule for all children in the US and most developed countries but the vaccine has only been available since the late 1990s, so most adults have not had the benefit of hepatitis A vaccination as a child. I call hepatitis A vaccine the “slam-dunk” vaccine for travelers because the disease is so common outside this country and the vaccine is one of the most effective and safe travel vaccines for Kenya and Tanzania available. A series of two hepatitis A shots protect you for life against acquiring the disease. If you travel outside the US, and especially to Africa, including countries like Kenya and Tanzania, remember the old commercial advice: “Don’t leave home without it.”

Hepatitis B Vaccine

The CDC recommends that every adult in the US receive a complete series of hepatitis B (HepB) vaccines. It is also part of the routine childhood vaccination series, and children receive their first HepB shot on the day they are born. The incidence of hepatitis B among the population in Africa is among the highest in the world. Depending on the formulation, 2 or 3 Hepatitis B shots protect you for a lifetime.

Typhoid Vaccine 

A typhoid shot is another important travel vaccine recommended for most travelers to Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania. Two forms of typhoid vaccine are available. A single, injectable form of typhoid vaccine protects you from typhoid for 2 years before you need a booster dose. A live, oral form of typhoid vaccine is also available and protects you for up to 5 years.

Rabies Vaccine 

Any mammal can transmit rabies, which is 100% fatal if not treated. The usual rabies carriers in Africa are stray dogs, bats and sometimes monkeys. A bite or scratch from an animal is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Rabies is widespread in Africa, but reliable treatment is scarce outside large, urban centers like Cape Town, Johannesburg, or Nairobi. Luckily, a safe and effective rabies vaccine is available. Protect yourself with just two doses, one week apart, before your trip.

Cholera Vaccine

Cholera is another food and water borne disease that has been increasing in incidence, especially in Africa. A travel health expert may recommend the Cholera vaccine for travelers doing mission work, visiting less developed areas and refugee camps. A single dose, oral cholera vaccine called Vaxchora® is currently available in the US.

Explore Africa, but prepare with vaccines for Kenya and Tanzania.

Africa is the cradle of civilization and one of the last great wildlife frontiers left on the planet. Without exception, all my travelers returning from Africa light up when sharing their wonderful and positive experiences on their trips. However, it is crucial to take preventive measures to avoid illnesses that could ruin your trip.

Routine and travel vaccines are key to pre-travel preparations, but other precautions are also vital. During a pre-travel consultation, your travel health expert will review how to prevent malaria, other insect-borne diseases, and traveler’s diarrhea.

The memories of seeing wildlife on the African savannah will live with you forever. Book your travel clinic appointment today to make sure that great memories are all you bring back with you.

Go. Explore.