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Vaccinations for South Africa

Vaccinations for South Africa
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Do you need vaccinations to go to South Africa?

South Africa is a key hub for business, tourism and culture within the African continent. People with a British passport can visit the country for up to 90 days without a visa, which makes it a very popular destination for UK nationals.

When visiting South Africa from the UK, a few precautions should be taken to ensure you stay safe. Mosquito bite prevention and sun safety should be practised, and care should be taken when eating and drinking in areas with poor sanitation. It’s also important to get properly vaccinated. Make sure you visit our Vaccination Checker to receive your personalised travel health summary.

Before you leave for South Africa, you should make an appointment with your GP or a travel clinic to discuss your individual requirements. You should do this six to eight weeks before you fly to South Africa, as some of the common travel vaccines must be administered over the course of a month.

To find out which vaccines you may need for South Africa, read on. You can also use our  powered by MASTA travel health.

Routine immunisations

Before you start planning your travel vaccinations for South Africa, you will need to make sure you have received all the routine immunisations administered in the UK (you will find a list here). If you aren’t sure whether you have received all your British vaccinations, you should speak to your GP.

What vaccines are needed for South Africa?

Once you are up to date on all your routine immunisations, you can begin to make a travel vaccination plan.

Depending on when you are planning to travel and the current vaccine recommendations your healthcare practitioner may advise you to receive the diphtheria, tetanus and typhoid vaccines. You might also consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A, cholera, hepatitis B, rabies, and tuberculosis, depending upon where you will be travelling to and what kinds of activities you will be taking part in.

No yellow fever vaccination is required if you are travelling to South Africa from the UK, as South Africa is not a risk for this particular disease. However, you will need to be vaccinated and present your vaccination certificate if you are travelling into South Africa from a country within yellow fever risk zone. 

Your travel health specialist may recommend any of the following vaccines after an individual risk assessment:

  • Hepatitis A

    Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is spread in the faeces of an infected person. The relative risks of hepatitis A transmission will vary greatly in different parts of South Africa. Travellers to South Africa are most likely to contract hepatitis A by consuming contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Hepatitis A can cause flu-like symptoms, jaundice and swelling around the liver. Most people recover within a few months, but in some cases the infection can cause serious complications.

    You can receive the hepatitis A vaccine on its own as a single injection, or in combination with the vaccine for typhoid (as a single injection).

  • Diphtheria

    Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that is spread in infected droplets from coughs and sneezes. It can cause a fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing and, left untreated, can result in serious complications. Diphtheria is more common in poor, overcrowded areas.

    Most travellers will receive the diphtheria vaccine as part of the diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster (provided they are up to date with their routine immunisations). This is administered as one injection.

  • Tetanus

    Tetanus is a bacterial infection which can get into the body through open wounds, causing painful muscle spasms and stiffness. Tetanus bacteria are found in soil and animal manure, which means you, may be at risk if you plan to work with animals or in the natural environment whilst in South Africa.

    The tetanus booster is usually administered as part of the diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster (unless the person in question has never received the tetanus vaccine, in which case a full course is needed).

  • Typhoid

    The typhoid vaccine is often given in combination with the hepatitis A vaccine, but it can also be administered as a solo vaccine. You can receive the vaccine as an injection or in the form of three capsules which are swallowed.

    Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread in the faeces (and sometimes the urine) of infected people. You may be at risk of typhoid fever if you consume contaminated food and water whilst in South Africa.

Other vaccinations for South Africa

The cholera vaccine is administered as a drink, not an injection, and is recommended for people who will be spending long periods of time in areas with poor sanitation and limited access to healthcare. Cholera is a bacterial infection spread in the faeces of an infected person; you can come into contact with cholera bacteria by consuming contaminated food or water.

The hepatitis B vaccine is administered as a course of three injections, and is recommended for people who may have unprotected sex, share needles or injecting equipment, get a tattoo or body piercing, or receive medical or dental treatment while travelling in South Africa. Hepatitis B is a viral infection affecting the liver that can lead to serious complications such as liver cancer. It is spread in the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person.

The rabies vaccine is administered as a course of three injections, and is recommended for people who may spend time with animals whilst in South Africa or be travelling remotely. Rabies is a serious viral infection that is spread through the scratches and bites of infected animals (usually dogs, but also monkeys, bats and cats). Rabies is nearly always fatal once the victim begins to display symptoms. To avoid infection, vaccination is strongly recommended. In the event that you get bitten or scratched, emergency treatment will still be needed but it is easier to administer.

The tuberculosis vaccine is administered as a single injection, and is recommended for health workers or children who will be spending long periods in South Africa. TB is a bacterial infection which is spread in infected droplets from coughs and sneezes. It’s a disease that attacks the lungs and leads to fatigue, weight loss, and blood to be coughed up.

Where can I get my South Africa vaccinations?

You will be able to receive some of your inoculations for South Africa for free on the NHS. Usually, the following vaccines/boosters will be available free from your GP surgery:

  • Diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster
  • Hepatitis A vaccine
  • Typhoid vaccine
  • OR, hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine
  • Cholera vaccine (in some cases)

The hepatitis B, rabies and tuberculosis vaccines are not usually available on the NHS. Your GP may still be able to provide them, but at a cost.

You can also arrange to receive these injections through a service such as MASTA. The cost for these private vaccines varies.

Is yellow fever vaccine required for South Africa?

South Africa requires all travellers who are from an area where yellow fever is known to be present, to show officials a yellow fever vaccine certificate before entering the country. This certificate is formally known as an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis and should be given to you after you receive your single injection. This certificate is valid for life and must be given to you at least 10 days before the start of your trip.

Check what vaccines you need