Vaccinations for India
India is a vast country with many popular resort areas, and countless thriving cities. This makes it a popular destination for holidaymakers and those who travel for business or to visit family members. Over 800,000 British nationals visit India every year; to stay safe, many will have to practice certain precautions before they leave the UK and while they are in India.
What vaccinations do I need for India?
There are a number of vaccines which are strongly recommended for travellers to India; not receiving these could put you at risk of serious illness.
The first recommendation for travellers to India is to get up to date on any British vaccinations or boosters that they may have missed. You can view these vaccines here. If you can’t remember which vaccines you have received, consult your GP as they should be able to provide your records.
If you are up to date with your British vaccinations, it is likely that your doctor will recommend the following injections for India:
- Diphtheria, polio and tetanus booster
- Hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine
In addition to these vaccines, your doctor or travel health consultant may also recommend that you receive the following vaccines:
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
With the exception of cholera (in some circumstances), these additional India vaccinations are typically only available privately. Usually you will have to obtain these vaccines from a private clinic, such as MASTA.
To learn more about the specific vaccines listed above, read on. To find out where you can receive these vaccinations, scroll down to “Where can I receive my jabs for India?”
Diphtheria, polio and tetanus booster
The diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster offers protection against all three of these diseases. It is usually available for free as a travel vaccine on the NHS, and is administered in one injection.
- Diphtheria is a bacterial infection affecting the nose and throat that causes a sore throat and difficulty breathing. It is spread through infected droplets from the mouth and nose, in coughs and sneezes.
- Polio is a viral infection that initially causes flu-like symptoms; in some cases it can spread to the nerves in the spine causing paralysis. Polio is spread in infected faeces and droplets from the mouth and nose.
- Tetanus is a bacterial infection which can occur when soil or animal manure gets into an open wound. It can cause painful muscle spasms and stiffness in the neck causing breathing difficulties.
Hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine
The hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine may be administered in one injection and is usually available on the NHS. It offers protection against both diseases. Both vaccines are also available separately.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that attacks the liver. It is spread in the faeces of an infected person. In countries such as India, hepatitis A is often carried in contaminated food and water in areas with poor sanitation.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, stomach pains and diarrhoea or constipation. It is carried in infected faeces, and like hepatitis A, is often contracted by consuming contaminated food or water.
When should the cholera vaccine be given?
The cholera vaccine is available on the NHS for certain high risk travellers such as aid workers. It is administered as a drink, not an injection. Adults require two doses of the vaccine one to six weeks apart.
Cholera is a bacterial infection spread in the faeces of an infected person. The disease is most widespread in areas with poor sanitation, and can be found in parts of India and other south Asian countries.
Hepatitis B vaccine
The hepatitis B vaccine is available at LloydsPharmacy, although it isn't usually available on the NHS. It's administered as three injections given over a number of months.
Hepatitis B is a serious viral infection that affects the liver. It is transmitted in blood and bodily fluids. It can be contracted through unprotected sex and by sharing needles and injecting equipment. When visiting India, you are also at risk of hepatitis B if you get a tattoo, a body piercing or any medical or dental treatment.
Should I get vaccinated for Japanese encephalitis?
The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is not available on the NHS. It is administered as two injections given one to four weeks apart. If you have received the Japanese encephalitis vaccine in the past, you may want to receive a booster before you visit India. The booster is delivered as a single injection and will then last 10 years.
Japanese encephalitis is a disease spread by mosquitoes that, in rare cases, affects the central nervous system and becomes potentially fatal. The risk is highest in rural areas.
Should I get a rabies vaccine?
The rabies vaccine is not usually available on the NHS. You must receive the rabies vaccine as three injections over the course of a month. If you have had the rabies vaccine in the past, you may want to receive the booster before you visit India. The booster is administered as one injection, usually 10 years after you first received the vaccine.
Rabies is a serious viral infection that is nearly always fatal. It is contracted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal (usually a dog) and requires emergency treatment, even if you have received the vaccine. If you’ve been vaccinated emergency treatment is much easier to administer. The rabies problem in India is particularly pronounced with around 20,000 cases reported each year.
How long does TB vaccine last?
Tuberculosisis a bacterial disease spread in infected respiratory droplets that attacks the lungs. The TB vaccine (BCG) is not given as part of the routine NHS vaccination schedule. It's given on the NHS only when a child or adult is thought to have an increased risk of coming into contact with TB such as to health workers, or children who will be spending long periods in India. It is administered as one injection and offers protection for up to 15 years.
Where can I receive my jabs for India?
You can get your inoculations for India from a range of places. Your GP should be able to provide the free vaccines. For the other vaccines, you can visit a travel clinic such as MASTA.
How long before you travel should you get vaccinated?
Around six to eight weeks before you travel to India you should attend an appointment with a travel clinic or your own GP to discuss which vaccines you might require. If you leave it much later than this, you may not have time to receive the vaccines that you require.