The basics
Study abroad : Before you leave

Pre-arrival vaccinations: Ensuring a healthy study abroad experience


Studying abroad is an important experience of anyone’s life. Before you can set off to your study destination, you have to do a number of things including demonstrating you have the necessary funds to finance your studies, obtain the correct student visa and pack. However many don’t think about their health, namely ensuring they have received the correct vaccinations to enter that country - sometimes it's because they're simply scared of needles!


Why should you get your shots?

In some countries, this is a pre-requisite for even gaining entry to that country! Furthermore if you wish to study a health or medicine-related course, especially one where you must treat patients, your health and wellbeing is even more important. Plus, you simply don't want to get caught out and come down with something serious while studying abroad - sitting in hospital is no way to spend your time in another country.


What might I need to be immunised against?

The countries you are travelling to and from will determine which diseases you would need to get immunised against. The most common diseases you can be asked to get vaccines for include Tuberculosis, Meningitis, Hepatitis B and MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) which you find out more about further below.

Here are some of the main vaccines you should look into getting if you haven’t already:


Tuberculosis is a respiratory track and lung disease that is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium. The disease is passed on from one person to another with direct contact, which raises concern for its spread among population.
There is more of a concern in the UK and USA which has lead to the extensive screening of immigrants that intend to stay in the country for more than six months.


Meningitis is a deadly brain and spinal cord disease that can kill in a matter of hours. Meningitis can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Similar to the case of Tuberculosis, Meningitis can be spread by direct contact, which causes concern for its spread and makes the vaccinations against the disease more important.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella - MMR

The MMR vaccine caters for three diseases i.e. Measles, Mumps and Rubella. Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can cause severe symptoms including blindness and even death. The disease has now become very rare in the UK and US due to the effectiveness of MMR vaccine.
Mumps is a contagious viral infection that means it is very easy for people to catch from others. Mumps can develop into Meningitis and cause brain disease. Rubella on the other hand is caused by a virus. It is transmitted by the respiratory route and can cause cardiac and cerebral defects.
The vaccines of MMR are usually given in two doses, one at birth and one a few years later. According to MMR Immunisation Policy you can only be exempt from getting the vaccination if you are pregnant, religiously restricted to get the vaccination, severe allergies or there is presence of cancer.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B causes inflammation in the liver and can be caused by contact with health care equipment, blood transfusion or exchange of other body fluids. The disease can be deadly which is why sometimes you would be required to be immunised against it.


How do I find out if I’ve been vaccinated?

Simple: Ask. Your parents or guardians should know, or failing that, your family doctor.


And if I haven’t been vaccinated?

Find out if you need to be in order to enter the country you’re studying in, and arrange an appointment with your family doctor to get your shot. You don’t want to be stuck at immigration upon entering the country, nor spend your first few days in a new country registering with a doctor in order to receive a shot.


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About Author

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.