Immunizations

Although no agency requires proof of any immunizations for travel to Russia, experts strongly recommend that travelers take certain precautions. We have compiled the following recommendations from information provided by Drs. Atkinson and Orenstein of the National Center for Prevention Services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and by Professor Murray Feshbach, a leading expert in the United States on environmental and medical problems in the former Soviet Union. You may check the most recent CDC recommendations.

IRKUTSK STUDENTS will need to present a doctor’s letter stating they do not have tuberculosis at the local university as part of university registration. Students should ask their doctor to provide such a letter prior to departure.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) has been a problem during the warm weather months in Russia in recent years, and students should pay particular attention to the final section of this CDC information. We strongly recommend that Irkutsk students get vaccinated for TBE, particularly if they are studying in Irkutsk in the spring semester and likely to stay in Russia through May or June when the weather warms up, especially if they plan to hike in the woods, where ticks are more prevalent in warm weather. It is not possible to receive a TBE vaccination in the US, so students need to be vaccinated in Russia. The vaccination isn’t very expensive, costing only around 1000 rubles per shot. However, there is a chance that some people will have an allergic reaction.

Tetanus/diphtheria (“TD”): Doctors recommend that you should have received a booster shot within the past ten years.  (Doctors do not usually believe that inoculation is necessary after age 5 for people who do not travel.) The diphtheria component is the more important of the two, particularly as there is currently a diphtheria warning for Moscow. The primary schedule for persons older than 7 years of age requires three doses of tetanus and diphtheria toxoids that are specifically for adult use. The doctor should administer one dose, then the second dose 4-8 weeks after the first. The third dose is administered 6-12 months after the second. The third dosage would be relevant only to those students planning to stay in, or return to, the FSU or Baltic countries after the end of the program.

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR): You should have had two shots, or you should be able to prove by blood test that you are immune to measles.

Polio: The Center recommends a single dose, assuming you have undergone the routine childhood dosage.

Hepatitis A & B: The Center is now embarking on a program to immunize every child in America against Hepatitis B. Although the disease is almost fully blood-borne or sexually transmitted (like the HIV virus), it is spreading rapidly both at home and abroad. Therefore, Dr. Atkinson recommends immunization to all adults, whether they are traveling or not. The vaccine is effective and has few or no side effects. You should receive the immune globulin for both Hepatitis A and B as close as possible to your date of exit. If you are also receiving the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), you should receive the MMR vaccine at least 2 weeks before the hepatitis immune globulin.

Typhus, cholera, rabies, plague, tick encephalitis: There is no vaccine for typhus, and the cholera vaccine is not very effective and often results in severe side effects. The best prevention for these diseases is common sense. You can protect yourself against typhus and tick encephalitis by wearing insect repellent while in the woods, as these diseases are transmitted by insects. Bring with you a small bottle of concentrated insect repellent with a high percentage of DEET, such as Cutter Deep Woods Off or Old Woodsman. Rabies, plague, and cholera are transmitted by animals, so you should avoid any contact with animals, particularly any that seem sick or wounded.