Vaccinations for South Africa

There are no compulsory vaccinations for South Africa required for travellers from Western Europe to gain entry. However, a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate could be required for travellers coming from some endemic zones in Africa and the Americas. Travellers on scheduled airlines whose flights have originated outside the areas regarded as infected (or who are only in transit through these areas) are not required to possess a certificate. If the flight originated from within a Yellow fever endemic area a certificate may then be required.

Furthermore, for the short-term traveller the recommended vaccinations for South Africa usually consist of cover against Tetanus and Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. For trekking holidays or extended visits Rabies and Hepatitis B may need to be considered. Most travellers to South Africa should start their vaccines at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure.

Mosquitoes are most often associated with Malaria, however it is not the only disease which the insect may carry. Insect repellents which contain more than 30% DEET are effective for keeping mosquitoes away but remember to cover your arms and legs when they are biting. This is mainly in the hours between dusk and dawn. The risk of malaria can be reduced by taking malarial prophylaxis on a regular basis if you are planning to visit the risk areas. Therefore, malaria prophylaxis may need to be considered depending on your itinerary.

There is generally a moderate climate in South Africa with sunny days and cool nights. The Cape Town region has a mean yearly temperature of 17°C while Johannesburg has an annual mean temperature of 16°C. This is mainly because Johannesburg is at 1,740 metres altitude. Throughout South Africa, summer extends between October and March and winter is between June and September. In Johannesburg the winter months tend to be dry and cool while the rainy season tends to occur during the warmer summer months.

Disease Required Recommended All Travellers Optional
Yellow Fever Yellow Fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. This live vaccine is given on one occasion at least 10 days before travel (if at all possible) and provides life long cover in the majority of patients. - - - -
Poliomyelitis Poliomyelitis is a viral disease transmitted through oral/faecal contamination and the respiratory route. The vaccine is combined with cover against Tetanus and Diphtheria. Most travellers who have completed their primary course of childhood vaccines will only require a single booster dose to provide cover. Once completed it is expected that cover should last for 10 years. - - - Poliomyelitis
Tetanus Tetanus is contracted through contaminated cuts, bites and breaks in the skin. The vaccination provides cover for approximately 10 years in the majority of patients. It is frequently combined with cover against other diseases such as Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria and/or Pertussis. - - Tetanus -
Hepatitis A Hepatitis A is a common disease in many of the hotter regions of the world and usually contracted through contaminated food and water. Cover against Hepatitis A can be given alone or combined with protection against Typhoid or Hepatitis B. Once completed, the Hepatitis A vaccination (given on two occasions 6 to 12 months apart) provides cover for approximately 25 years in the majority of patients. - - Hepatitis A -
Typhoid Typhoid is a bacterial disease contracted through contaminated food and water. This vaccine can be combined with cover against Hepatitis A. Once completed, the Typhoid vaccination given on one occasion provides cover for between 2 to 3 years in the majority of patients - - Typhoid -
Hepatitis B Hepatitis B is a viral disease which is usually transmitted in a very similar fashion to HIV/AIDS through contact with infected body fluids (eg blood exposure and sexually). This vaccine can be combined with cover against Hepatitis A. The standard schedule for Hepatitis B is to administer the vaccine on days 0, 28 and 180. A more rapid schedule can be used in cases where cover is needed more urgently and this is administered on days 0, 7, 21 to 28 and also 365. Following either course (and not before completion) a blood test can be taken to confirm sufficient antibody protection. Where the correct level of antibodies are showing (>100iu) the vaccination is recognised to provide cover for life. - - - Hepatitis B
Rabies Rabies is a viral disease which is usually transmitted through the bite, the lick or the scratch of any infected warm blooded animal. The vaccine is usually administered on days 0, 7 and between 21 to 28. A final 4th vaccine is administered about 1 year later. Once a course is completed, the vaccination provides life long 'immune memory' in the majority of patients BUT after any possible exposure the individual always needs further vaccination to boost antibody production - - - Rabies
Meningococcal Meningitis Meningococcal Meningitis is a bacterial disease which is usually transmitted through the respiratory route. The vaccine is given on one occasion and provides cover against four of the main forms of this disease. Once a course is completed the vaccination provides for over 5 years in the majority of patients. - - - Meningococcal Meningitis
Cholera Cholera / E coli are both food / water borne diseases. This oral vaccine is given on two occasions between 1 to 6 weeks apart before travel. The second dose (frequently given one week after the initial one) should be administered 7 days before potential exposure. Once completed the cover against Cholera is expected to be for about 2 years. The cover against E coli is shorter and thought to be effective for between 3 to 4 months. In travellers who have completed an initial primary course within the past 2 years a single further dose is sufficient to maintain this cover. - - - Cholera
Diphtheria Diphtheria is a bacterial disease transmitted through the respiratory route and also through skin contact. The vaccine is combined with cover against Tetanus & Poliomyelitis or Tetanus & Pertussis and, in those who have completed their childhood vaccines, a single dose provides cover for 10 years. - - - -
Influenza Influenza is a viral disease transmitted through the respiratory route and is very infectious. The vaccine should be given each year in autumn and provides cover for approximately one year. - - - -
Japanese Encephalitis Japanese Encephalitis is a viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The Ixiaro vaccine is given on two occasions one month apart with a third dose at 12 months. Once completed the vaccine is thought to provide cover for between 2 to 3 years but possibly longer. - - - -
Tick Borne Encephalitis Tick Borne Encephalitis is a viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. The vaccine is given on two occasions one month apart and a further 3rd dose is given at 12 months. Once completed the vaccine provides cover for between 3 to 5 years. - - - -
Measles / Mumps / Rubella Measles / Mumps / Rubella are viral diseases transmitted mainly through coughs and sneezes (respiratory route). The vaccine is usually given during childhood schedules but coverage in adults can wane and so booster doses (on two occasions one month apart) can provide cover to approximately 95% receiving the vaccine. - - - -
Pertussis Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a viral disease transmitted mainly through coughs and sneezes (respiratory route). The vaccine is usually given during childhood schedules but coverage in adults can wane and so a booster dose is frequently recommended during pregnancy (to protect the unborn child) and also in those over 50 years of age. - - - -
Malaria Malaria is an infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites from the Plasmodium family that can be transmitted by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito or by a contaminated needle or transfusion.

Country Profile

Find out more about the health risks you should be aware of when travelling in South Africa by reading the DFA South Africa country information page
or the WHO South Africa country information page.