Vaccines Necessary for Travel Out of the Country. T or F?

Updated on July 24, 2010
V.A. asks from West Palm Beach, FL
25 answers

I have chosen not to vaccinate my now 18 month old son. We were hoping to go to costa rica this summer to visit a friend but my ex says we cannot legally without vaccines. Is this true and/or can anyone direct me to some web sites with information on this issue? My ex never really fully supported the vaccine decision so I am not sure if he just want to make our son get vaccines or if he just doesnt want us to go on vacation to costa.

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So What Happened?

It appears that my So What Happened" comment wasn't posted or something because I am still getting responses to a question I did not ask. So I thought i would re-post.......Just want to thank everyone for taking the time to respond to my inquiry. However, my question was regarding traveling and vaccines. I was not looking for opinions or chastisment for my decision not to vaccinate. I care about my son very much, its so unfortunate that I must defend that. That is why I have chosen not to vaccinate. It seems that people have too many judgements and opinions these days. Maybe if we could just trust and support each other as mothers rather than doubt that we know what is best for OUR individual child,the world would be a better place. Those parents who do vaccinate are taking a risk just as I am in not vaccinating. That is their choice, made hopefully with lots of research but at the end of the day a final decision made with a combination of all that information and the instinct found only in a mothers soul. That instict is different for each of us. That is part of the demonstration of Gods love in creating the uniquness of us all and His unique relationship with each one of us. If respect is given to that I feel the world would be a much better place, now and for the future. After all, our children are the future. I hope for a future of peace. Thank you, love and peace to you all.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I have a friend who refused to vaccine her children because she was very uninformed. Her child died of measles at age 4. He got it in the US just the same as you can get it in Costa Rica.

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answers from Jacksonville on


As someone already mentioned, a few countries do require certain vaccinations but vaccinations in general aren't legally required to travel.

However, I was born and raised in Panama (to the south of Costa Rica) and I know that many countries in Central and South America still use the live (OPV) polio vaccine. If your son is exposed to someone who has recently had this vaccine, he is at risk for contracting polio even if the person who has had the vaccine does not have it. Also, Hepatitis is a concern for travellers to any Latin-American country. I would not step foot on Panamian soil (or in an international airport for that matter) without at least those two vaccines.

I can support the decision not to vaccinate in the United States (many of my good friends don't vax and we discuss the issue often) because you are protected by "herd" immunity. You have the luxury of choosing not to vaccinate because most other people choose the opposite. However, that is not the case in many other countries in the world where vaccination campaigns have not been as far-reaching or successful. The decision not to vaccinate will require that you make some sacrifices and I believe that travel to central/south america or Africa is one of them.

I'm sure the risk is probably very small, however it's not a gamble I'd be willing to take.

Best of luck to you and I hope you get this all figured out and have a wonderful family vacation.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Melbourne on

This page has CDC recommendations for Costa Rica. One paragraph that stood out for me was:

"Although childhood diseases, such as measles, rarely occur in the United States, they are still common in many parts of the world. A traveler who is not vaccinated would be at risk for infection."

So I would be especially careful going to other parts of the world with my kids if they weren't vaccinated. I agree with living in the US there are enough children vaccinated to avoid a recurrence of some of the now uncommon diseases, but in other countries, I wouldn't take the chance.

But that is just my opinion, hope you enjoy your trip.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Daytona Beach on

Hi V.. Just thought I'd share some info I have learned over the years from having two vaccine injured sons and another on the way that we do not intend to vaccinate.

There is actually no "herd immunity" as someone stated. The US has never actually reached the percentage that they say is needed. We have much cleaner living standards here and more treatments once one does get sick, but herd immunity is one thing we do not have.

Many, many children that have been vaccinated still get the illness they have been "protected" against and it isn't always a "lesser case" of that illness just because of the vaccine.

I find it interesting that when so many kids got chicken pox who were vaccinated and some were dying of it, the CDC simply said that maybe we should start giving our kids yet another dose of it. I guess their answer is to shoot them up again. Surely the first one didn't take or something, right?!

The younger of my two sons was 18 months old when he received 6 vaccines in one day. Within a week or two, he stopped answering to his name, began running in circles, lost the few words he had, and many other symptoms. At 2 1/2 yrs, he was diagnosed with Moderate Autism. Please use caution!!!

A child's blood-brain barrier is not fully developed until about the age of two, at best. There are several neurotoxins in vaccines that, even in "trace" amounts, can cross right over that underdeveloped barrier to enter the brain and cause countless problems for that child.

I have never traveled out of the country so I'm not sure of the rules but if I was being forced to vaccinate in order to go, I would fight that with all that I am and I would not go until I won that fight.

You are the parent. Always remember that. It is your right and your right alone to decide what risk is acceptable for your child. People who vaccinate have said to me that it's not fair that an unvaccinated child attend school with their "protected" children and risk infection to their vaccinated children. My responce to that is.... If these vaccines are so safe and work so well, what are you worried about? Shouldn't it be me who should be worried, if vaccines are wonderful and my child has none?

Research, research, research. Here are some web sites to start with.....

I know my words sound strong and harsh. Please remember that my family has lived this and is living it every day. I am currently trying to potty train my 6 1/2 yr old son with Autism. That's my goal for him right now. I love my sons with all that I am. It makes me beyond angry to know that what has happened to them was so very preventable and done to them on purpose because it was better for "the bottom line" of big pharma companies.

Please research and use caution. My thoughts and prayers are with you that you never face what we have faced.

C. B

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Gainesville on

While I have never heard a convincing argument not to vaccinate, there are very few mandatory travel vaccinations. For Costa Rica the only mandatory vaccination according to the World Health Organization is yellow fever vaccine, and that is only if you are coming FROM countries with a problem with yellow fever (which the US is not).

Many people recommend Hepatitis A and typhoid fever when traveling outside the country because these are common food-borne diseases worldwide. However, these are not mandatory anywhere.

Here is the link to their recommendations for Costa Rica:

Based on a mountain of research, vaccines are safe and effective. As a parent, I would never not vaccinate my children. I feel it is my responsibility to protect them from harm. You must make decisions on their behalf until they become adults. You are not avoiding potential harm by not vaccinating. You must make an informed decision based on the facts. Are your children more likely to be affected by an infectious disease or a bad reaction to the vaccine? All science points to the fact that the risk of a problem from a vaccine is much smaller than the risk of having a problem from an infectious disease.

However, you can make this on a vaccine by vaccine basis. For example, my daughter does not go to school (she's 7 months old), so I did not feel the need for her to get the rotavirus vaccine. If she were at risk (meaning in school) she would have gotten it. You should look at the risks and benefits of both sides and not be scared by the media or the woman down the street who swears her kid was damaged by vaccines. (By the way I personally hate the term vaccine damaged. Your children should not be referred to as damaged goods, regardless of what kind of injury they may have sustained)



answers from Boca Raton on

Hi V.! Good for you...Costa Rica is one of my favorite places on earth...MAGICAL!! Anyway, we went, right before we got married..and we didn't get any as far as the "legal" aspect...sounds like bull. As you know, we also don't vaccinate Star. If I were to travel with her, I would look into any epidemics in the country we are going to..and then make that difficult decision. I don't know quite how to direct you there, but I am sure each government has to have public access to disease statistics...kind of like our CDC. NO matter what, ENJOY your is really one of the most beautiful, natural places on earth!!!
A. :)



answers from Orlando on

We have taken our daughter to costa 3 times and she is 2 1/2 years old. She was vaccinated at 5 months for 2 of the immunizations but that is all. She never got 2nd or 3rd doses for any of them. We never encountered any problems as far as requiring vaccines to travel. I am sure it is more highly recommended depending on where you travel.



answers from Boca Raton on

I have to say, I think the trendy new wave of people not vaccinating their children is scary and dont agree with anyone making this decision. Have you ever heard of the herd theory. For every child not vaccinated in this country, my child is more at risk as these diseases become stronger and more resistant and morph into more toxic dangerous forms. Over 150 babies dies from whooping cough last year that werent vaccinated. I cannot believe you would take a chance on your child getting polio or rubella or any one of the dozens of dangerous life threatening illnesses we are lucky enough in this country to protect our children against. Other countries wish they had the health benefits we do, as they watch their children die. Good luck travelling outside the country to places that don't have vaccines. I will pray for your son .



answers from Nashville on

I strongly recommend you vaccinate your child at that tender age. I am from the caribbean and it is likely if your child wasn't born there, have not developed an immunity to the different things common to that atmosphere. Please immunize your child for his/her safety and for the safety of others when you return from your trip.



answers from Gainesville on

Every country is different, and most of my travel experience is in Africa and southeast Asia, so you'll have to ask your pediatrician about Costa Rica, but some vaccines are required. If I remember right, polio and yellow fever are the big ones that are internationally recommended, but that's also because they assume you vaccinate your child at home.
The difference between a non-vaccinated child at home and abroad is exposure. You have herd immunity here because most everyone else vaccinates their kids, so yours is protected because he probably won't come in contact with a kid with measles or rubella. That may not be the case in Costa Rica, depending on how you travel. If you are first class all the way and stay in nice hotels, you will likely be fine, but if you are doing adventure travel and seeing local villages, many of those kids are probably not vaccinated.
It's simply a matter of risk and what you are willing to accept. Let's say that in the US you have a 90% chance your kid won't get measles (it's probably higher). You don't vaccinate your son, 90% is fine with you. If your risk is 50%, would you make the same decision? How far are you from medical care in Costa Rica? Do you have several days to deal with a high fever while you transport him to medical care? Do you trust the medical care there? It's a tourist country, so areas will be more developed than others, and there is probably at least a first world medical facility in the capital and perhaps one other regional tourist center, but I would talk to your pediatrician and the local travel clinic or infectious disease specialist before making any final decisions.
If you are worried about the autism thing you can require vaccines with no thimerosol.


answers from Sarasota on

You should be able to call your local immigration or health office and find out the LEGALITIES of not vaccinating. I'm pretty sure you don't have to but you may have to fill out some paper work explaining your exemption from vaccinating. Good luck and way to follow your instincts!



answers from Miami on

I just want to say don't let any one push you into anything that you don't want to do; however, traveling to other countries is tough as they are not like America, Australia or any Country that is not impoverished.

What people don't understand and I have done tons of research and have heard stories from moms about vaccinations, is the fact that vaccines are not cures and you can still contract the disease if it's out there.

Do your research when visiting Costa Rica and see if anyone will tell you if there are any outbreaks of anything. Think about it, even if you were vaccinated, would you still want to be around someone with the measles or chicken pox? People have gotten chicken pox again even after having it as a child. They say it's because the person probably had a mild case. Who really knows but I still wouldn't want to put myself at risk. I'm not big on vaccines either. Some doctors are coming forward too.

I do not trust pharmaceutical companies. Do you ever count how many commercials there on drugs during a TV break?

Even in the US some people aren't as clean as others; however, you don't see anyone dying of any of the big plagues. We have standards that have to be followed; unfortunately, most other countries don't follow this standard. They are poor and don't have the funds.

So keep safe and have fun.

Here is someone that you can contact about vaccines. It was started by a woman who lost her child to vaccines; it's called: Educate Before You Vaccinate/VIC

Vaccine Injury Coalition-800-939-8227/




answers from Miami on

V., we have a home in Costa Rica. They don't require any vacontins. There is, however, a danger of Malaria and Dendegue fever by mosquito bites in some areas. I would check with your friends to see if they live in one of those areas. There are no vacines for those. Just make sure you keep covered up. It is a beautiful country. Have a ball!



answers from Boca Raton on

Hi V.,
My husband and I spent 2 months in Costa Rica when our unvaccinated daughter was 13-16 months old. We travelled the West Coast and didn't venture inland much due to the aridity of the coast made us feel safer than the humid interior (mosquitos!). Also we cancelled our plans to visit the East Coast because they had terrible flooding at the time. I looked in to all the recommendations before we left and spoke to some mothers of unvaccinated children who had also followed the same course when recently visiting Costa Rica. I hope you have a great trip and wish you well in your decision making.



answers from Miami on

Dr. Rydland is a holistic pediatrician and a great resource on vaccine decisions. He just gave a talk here this past weekend. You can reach him via his website at .



answers from Panama City on

call the passport office or a travel agent. Then ask a doc if your son can have them foreign countries have more diseases be cause we do vacinate I tried to get a small pox shot for my son USAF refused because it was basically wipped out, Then we had thesmall pox attack scare.



answers from Melbourne on

I understand why many parents chose not to have their children vaccinated. There are some risks with any medical procedure including vaccines. However, there are some risks with almost anything, including not vaccinating. There are pros and cons to everything and they should be weighed carefully.

Here in America many diseases are not likely to be contracted by a child, but an unvaccinated child is more likely to contract a disease, should there be an outbreak. In other countries like Costa Rica, the risk of contracting a disease is higher than in America. The problems that occur from many of these diseases are much worse then the rare problems that can occur from vaccinating from those diseases.

The main concerns I hear from parents are concerning autism. The only chemical that is currently used in any vaccine that may contribute to a few of those diagnosed with Autism is Thimerisol. Most vaccines no longer have any of this chemical used in them. But it is quite easy to ask to see the label of any vaccine before agreeing to its use. If Thimerisol is listed don't use it. The other main precaution you can use if you decide to vaccinate is to do it slowly, one or two at a time. It is easier to spot any reactions, and find out what caused them.

Most of the time the only reaction is a slight fever, body aches, lack of energy, and some grouchy behavior for a day or two. All of those symptoms are usually gone after a day or two. Someone posted this comment concerning vaccinating that I found a bit off
"I personally wouldn't use them, as I consider vaccines as health hazards."
I find it off because of the simple fact that exposure to the diseases vaccines are intended to prevent is a huge health hazard.

Traveling to another country with much higher risks of coming in contact with diseases like malaria, polio, hepatitis, typhoid, and cholera, should be planned carefully. Even if you don't want to risk possible reaction from vaccines, there are much worse reactions from contacting any of those diseases. Just be careful, and even if you chose for or against vaccines at least read up on any precautions to take to help avoid contracting anything from food, water, or insects.



answers from Boca Raton on

Contact your local Board of Health (or county commission, etc...) and find out. They are often the place you need to consult for oversees vacinations anyway, I believe.
I think it has less to do with the diseases that you would encounter there than what an unvaccinated child could contract and bring back here.
That said, you would take a huge risk by taking your unvaccinated child to a third world country where vaccination isn't mandated by a strong healthcare system like ours. The reason why you feel safe enough to opt out of vaccinating your child here is because so many of us do vaccinate, thus keeping your child safe from horrible diseases, too.



answers from Panama City on


From what I understand, vaccines are not a requirement to travel to Costa Rica, but they are highly recommended, especially for Malaria. I think your ex is probably just understandably concerned for his child. I would take whatever necessary precautions are recommended since we can't play God and save our children if they did contract a deadly disease. I would get the main recommended ones for that country.

However, on the other hand, I don't believe I would take my child to a risky country at such a young age.

You must ask yourself the tough questions of "Could I live with myself if something did happen to him?" "What are the pros and cons?" "Will I be able to keep him 100% safe at all times if we choose to go?" etc...

Only you can make the call...

From one mom to another, I just wouldn't take the risk at his young age. Visiting the friend just wouldn't be worth the risk involved. I would wait til he is at least 4-5 years old and his body is stronger and more able to fight infection.

Just my feelings. We are stewards of our children, called by God to raise them up and protect them. We must keep their best interests at heart above our desires.

Take Care and may God lead you and direct you,
Mom of 4



answers from Miami on

Vaccines are NOT required to travel, though they are typically recommended by the government and medical professionals so people may erroneously believe they are required. I personally wouldn't use them, as I consider vaccines as health hazards. The CDC has no listed requirement for vaccination when traveling to Costa Rica. Even in rare cases where vaccination is listed as required, such as some places in Africa, there are medical exceptions that can be obtained. Here's what the CDC page says:
Required Vaccinations

The only vaccine required by International Health Regulations is yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Meningococcal vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the Hajj.

Yellow Fever

Use the Health Information for International Travel information below to determine if you will need a yellow fever certificate, and find a clinic that can give the vaccination and issue the certificate.

Yellow Fever (disease, vaccination, and vaccination certificate information)
Yellow fever vaccination recommendations by country
Authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccination clinics



answers from Santa Fe on

Wow, I'm with you on this one. You ask a question about traveling and vaccines and people take that as an open door to try and make you feel bad for not vaccinating your child. Do your research people before you start chastising anyone on this issue. Plus, we are all free to make our own choices and do what we believe is best for our children.



answers from Daytona Beach on

I don't remember off-hand whether the vaccinations are set in stone as necessary. I do know that certain vaccinations are required when travelling to certain countries.

Good places to start looking are sites for: State Department and, surprisingly, the CDC (specifics were linked from State Department). Department of Health *might* be a good place, but I'm not entirely sure whether or not they have the specific info needed.

We have travelled overseas ourselves and those sites (State and CDC) are usually best for this kind of information.



answers from Miami on

Dear V.,

You've already received information and the sources for WHO and CDC. You can also go to to obtain up to date country information and you can also contact the US embassy in Costa Rica:

A word of warning when travelling on an airplane and especially internationally: you do not know who else will be on that plane and what diseases they are carrying! I say this because a friend of mine took her unvaccinated daughter on a trip with her to London and Prague and the poor thing contracted polio. As best as she can tell, it was probably from another international traveller either in London, Prague or on the airplane.

You may want to seriously consider the advice given to sacrifice your own international travel at this time in favor of protecting your child.

I say this all as a mom who was extremely cautious and dragged out our vaccine schedule but also spent 15 years as an international educator working mostly in 3rd world countries.




answers from Panama City on


I read all your responses and I just want to applaud you on making a choice based on your freedom to choose. We do not vaccinate either based on the tragedy of what it did to one of my nephews. Blessings to you and I hope you have a wonderful safe trip!!




answers from Gainesville on

Hi V.,
I am not sure about the legal aspects you ask but felt compelled to urge you to vaccinate your son. Has he had any vaccines at all? You are needlessly putting him at risk of death by not vaccinating him for some very common illnesses. The bacteria that causes tetanus is ubiquitous in our environment but one often does not hear of human cases due to vaccination. I have seen many unvaccinated animals die of tetany. Not to mention the many other diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis and measles. If you take your son to central america without vaccinating him you are really gambling with his life. He may end up fine but why take the chance. Every study to date has disproven the link between vaccines and autism. I would be more worried about the pesticides in your food and toxins in our environment than a vaccine causing him harm. Well, i wish you the best and urge you to look in to this matter not on an emotional level but a scientific one. Sincerely,
K. (a mother of 2 and practicing veterinarian)

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