*Note: You can’t currently travel to China due to COVID-19. This page will be updated in due course.*
It’s important you get the right vaccinations for China.
The last thing you want is to get sick while you’re there or to navigate the Chinese health system.
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to see your doctor and get all your vaccinations before you leave.
That way, you’re protected from common diseases and have a little more assurance that you’ll be returning home without any additional nasties.
What’s the minimum vaccination requirement for tourists?
There’s no minimum vaccination requirement if you’re visiting China as a tourist, unless you’re arriving from a country known for yellow fever.
So, for the majority of travelers, you can simply book your flight, get your visa and go.
However, when you travel anywhere, but particularly developing (and often tropical) countries like China, you can be exposed to diseases that you don’t get back home.
Being immunized will protect you against contracting them, stop you from getting violently ill, and perhaps even save your life.
It’s ultimately your decision.
Important factors to consider
Many people don’t realize that China is a huge country with various conditions, climates and health advice.
So, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ scenario when it comes to vaccinations for China.
Here are some important factors that can affect what vaccinations you should get before you travel there.
Where are you going?
Are you sticking to Shanghai and Beijing, or are you venturing out to the rural areas on your own? Your risk can increase in rural areas, meaning more or different vaccinations are required.
When are you going?
Will you be traveling through China in the middle of summer, or the middle of winter? Also, if you’re jetting off in a few days’ time, you may not be able to get all the required shots done in time.
How long is your stay?
If you’re moving to China versus visiting for a couple of weeks, then it changes your vaccination requirements. If you’re moving there, it makes it more likely that you’ll travel into areas that will put you at risk.
What activities will you be doing?
Will you be in close contact with animals in China? Is there a chance that you’ll have sex with a local during your travels? And, do you think you’ll get your ears pierced or any tattoos?
These are just a few questions to consider.
Check you’ve had your routine immunizations
Before you travel to China you should make sure you’re up to date on all your routine immunizations.
This will give you a broad spectrum of protection against some very dangerous diseases. The list may vary slightly depending on where you’re from, but generally the routine immunizations you should check include:
- Tetanus, pertussis, diphtheria (DPT)
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
- Varicella, otherwise known as chickenpox
- Influenza (i.e. this year’s flu shot).
If you can’t remember if you’re up to date, chat with your doctor or get your immunization record from your national health service.
Vaccinations you may need for China
Here are some of the most commonly recommended vaccinations for China.
1. Hepatitis A
You can catch this through contaminated food and water, even if you’re staying at top hotels.
Fever, nausea and vomiting are just a few of the symptoms, and you can stay sick for a very long time. Hepatitis A is a preventable disease so it’s worth getting your injection.
2. Hepatitis B
This is a blood-borne viral infection that can damage the liver. In severe cases, you can even die from it. You can catch Hepatitis B from things like unsafe sex, exchanging bodily fluids and sharing needles.
This vaccination is given as multiple shots over several months, so visit your doctor early on if you think you’re at risk.
This is another disease that you can get from contaminated food and water. It’s often spread when food handlers don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.
It can cause some very uncomfortable symptoms like fever, headache, diarrhea and abdominal pain. This is no way to spend your trip of a lifetime in China!
This is found in dogs, bats and other mammals in China. If there’s a chance you’re going to be around animals, or you’re going to be in China long term, it’s worth getting vaccinated for rabies.
You can get vaccinated after being infected, but it might be hard to get the vaccine where you are. Plus, the medical system is very different in China – you have to visit a hospital (not a doctor’s clinic) for any medical care.
That’s why it’s best if you’re vaccinated before you go.
5. Japanese Encephalitis
This is a viral disease that’s spread through mosquito bites, particularly during the middle of the year.
You may only experience mild symptoms when you contract Japanese Encephalitis, like fever, headache and muscle aches. But a small number of people develop brain inflammation and actually die from it.
If you’re planning on spending lots of time outdoors or visiting rural areas, have a chat with your doctor about this one.
Malaria is another infection transmitted by mosquito bite. The risk in China is mostly in the tropical southern areas.
The best way to prevent malaria is to wear long-sleeved clothing and avoid being bitten.
But in reality this can be tough, and that’s why malaria prevention drugs are available.
What about coronaviruses?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there are some pretty deadly coronaviruses that can affect you in China.
First there was Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and then there was COVID-19.
You can get mild symptoms like a sore throat and runny nose right through to life-threatening pneumonia. Those with compromised immune systems and chronic diseases are particularly at risk.
There are no vaccines for these viruses. Prevention measures include strict hand hygiene, staying away from sick people and wearing a face mask.
Hopefully there’s a vaccine for COVID-19 soon. It will make traveling a lot easier!
Where can you get travel vaccinations for China?
See your regular doctor before your trip and discuss your travel plans with them. Your doctor should be able to give you the vaccinations you need.
However, you may need vaccines that aren’t commonly stocked at your clinic. In that case, your doctor will be able to refer you to a travel clinic or order in the vaccines you require.
It’s important that you get your vaccinations before you leave for your trip to China.
Certain vaccinations, such as Hepatitis B, are given in several doses over a few months. So make your doctor’s appointment a long time before you leave to ensure you can complete your immunization cycle.
Some leading travel health clinics include:
My final travel advice for China
As well as getting travel vaccinations for China, I have two final, quick tips.
First, don’t drink Chinese tap water – it’s unsafe. Only drink bottled water or boiled water. You’ll find both available everywhere in China, so don’t stress out!
Secondly, if you get sick in China, you’ll probably be holed up in your hotel room using Wi-Fi.
Being able to chat with loved ones back home on Facebook or WhatsApp, or sending emails from your Gmail, is only possible if you have a VPN on your phone.
That’s because all the major websites and apps are blocked in China. So, check out this review of the VPNs that work in China to overcome this problem.
Why vaccinations matter for China
There’s a lot to do before you leave on a big trip and it’s easy to forget or miss things. But you shouldn’t forget about your travel vaccinations for China.
Even though the country has no immunization requirement for most tourists, for your own peace of mind and safety you should still make sure you’re protected against some of the nasty diseases you could encounter there.
So, make an appointment a few months before your trip and ask your doctor about your immunization status and what they recommend.
That’s the best way to ensure you’re covered and you can have a healthy and happy time in China.
I hope you liked my article on travel vaccinations for China. If you’re a woman like me, you may also like the one I wrote about what it’s like being a foreign woman in China. It’s always good to be prepared!
Disclaimer: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for professional medical advice. Speak with a doctor about your individual medical needs for China.