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Vaccinations for Kenya
Have you got a trip to Kenya planned?
Kenya is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the African continent, famed for its vast savannahs, snow-capped mountains, and excellent safari opportunities. Travellers to this beautiful country, however, must be aware of the various health risks involved.
Kenya is a risk zone for malaria, dengue fever, schistosomiasis, and altitude sickness. It’s also associated with a number of diseases for which there are vaccines available. Enter your details into our Vaccination Checker to see which vaccinations are recommended for your trip.
If you have a trip to Kenya from the UK planned, you should book an appointment with your GP or a doctor at a travel clinic, six to eight weeks before you leave the country. At this appointment you can discuss a number of travel health issues, and book the vaccinations you will need.
You can also use a service such as MASTA clinics to find out which vaccinations you will need, and book appointments to receive them.
Recommended Kenya vaccinations
The first step in preparing for your trip to Kenya should be double checking that you are completely up to date on your routine British immunisations (you can find a list here). You can ask your GP for a record of your vaccinations if you aren’t sure.
Once you know you are up to date, you can talk to a doctor about receiving your travel vaccines. The current guidance is that travellers to Kenya should get vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Hepatitis A
However vaccination information changes all the time, for up to date recommendations for your trip visit our Vaccination Checker.
The good news is that if you are fully up to date on your routine immunisations you can receive these vaccines as just two separate injections, both of which are usually free on the NHS:
- The diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster
- The hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine
Diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster
The diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster is administered as one injection. It offers protection against all three diseases.
Diphtheria is a contagious bacterial infection, spread through coughs and sneezes. The symptoms include a sore throat, fever and difficulty breathing; in severe cases, diphtheria can cause fatal complications. It is more common in poor, overcrowded areas.
Polio is a viral infection that can cause paralysis. Though it has largely been eradicated due to global vaccination programmes, Kenya is still thought to be at risk of polio outbreaks. Polio is spread via the coughs, sneezes and faeces of infected people. Travellers to Kenya may be susceptible in areas with poor sanitation, where food and water has become contaminated.
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that causes painful spasms and stiffness in the neck muscles, leading to breathing difficulties. The bacteria is most commonly found in soil and animal manure; infection occurs when these bacteria get into an open wound.
Hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine
The hepatitis A & typhoid vaccine can be administered as one injection. It offers protection against both diseases.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection which is spread in the faeces of an infected person. Travellers to Kenya may be exposed to this disease if they consume contaminated food or water (more likely in an area with poor sanitation). Most people recover from hepatitis A within a few months, but in some cases it can cause serious liver complications.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection which causes fever, stomach pains, headache, and constipation or diarrhoea. Left untreated it can lead to life-threatening complications such as internal bleeding. Like hepatitis A, typhoid is spread in the faeces of an infected person, and is most often contracted through the consumption of contaminated food or water.
Other Kenya vaccinations to consider
Depending upon the kinds of activities you will be undertaking, and where in Kenya you will be travelling to, you may also consider getting vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Hepatitis B
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Yellow fever
Cholera is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. It is spread in the faeces of an infected person and is particularly common in areas with poor sanitation. The cholera vaccine is administered as a drink, given in two doses one to six weeks apart.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver, in some cases causing chronic hepatitis (which can in turn lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer). Hepatitis B is spread in blood and bodily fluids, which means travellers to Kenya, may be at risk if they have unprotected sex, get a tattoo or body piercing, or receive medical or dental treatment in an unhygienic environment.
The hepatitis B vaccine is administered as a course of three injections over several weeks. It is not usually free on the NHS.
Meningococcal meningitis is a serious bacterial infection that affects the brain. It is caused by a group of different bacterial strains, some of which you may have received a vaccine for as part of your routine immunisations. Meningococcal meningitis is spread via infected respiratory droplets (e.g. coughs and sneezes); transmission is more likely in overcrowded areas.
In 2015, the meningitis ACWY vaccine was added to the list of routine immunisations, meaning it is now offered to school children aged 13-14, and students going to university or overseas for the first time. Most travellers to Kenya from the UK will not have benefitted from this change to the immunisation programme. Travellers in close contact with the local population should consider getting the ACWY vaccine.
The meningitis ACWY vaccine is administered as one injection, and may be available for free from your GP if you were born in a certain year. Otherwise, you can obtain it privately.
Rabies is a serious viral infection, which affects the central nervous system and is nearly always fatal without vaccination or emergency treatment. It is usually spread to humans via the bite or scratch of an infected dog; however other animals (e.g. cats, bats, monkeys) also carry the disease. You may be at risk of rabies whilst in Kenya if you interact with animals.
The rabies vaccine is administered as a course of three injections over one month. It is not usually available on the NHS.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection transmitted through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person, usually after prolonged contact. It mainly affects the lungs, and causes a fever, coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing.
The TB vaccine (known as the BCG) used to be routinely offered to schoolchildren, which means many travellers may already have immunity. The BCG vaccination is sometimes recommended for children, those staying for long periods, or those who will be working in a high-risk occupation (e.g. health worker). We recommend that you consult a healthcare professional to determine whether you would benefit from this vaccine.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne disease that is a potential risk in western areas of Kenya (click here to view a map). Most people recover quickly from yellow fever, but some people will develop serious symptoms such as jaundice, and bleeding from the nose, mouth and eyes. Around half of all people who develop these more extreme symptoms die from the disease.
You only need the yellow fever vaccine if you are travelling to high-risk areas of Kenya, or if you are coming into Kenya from another yellow fever risk zone (you will need to show your vaccination certificate upon entering Kenya).