Do You Need Vaccines for Travel to Shanghai or Beijing, China?

Do You need vaccines for china?Shanghai and Beijing are two of the largest cities in the world. Naturally, they are  common destinations for businessmen, students, and tourists alike. How will you prepare? Do you need any vaccines for travel to Shanghai or Beijing, China?


Third in a series about preparing for a specific destination.

Travelers staying only in Beijing or Shanghai have different needs than those touring more extensively throughout China.

No vaccines are required for China when coming from the USA…… But many immunizations are recommended before traveling to China.

Which Vaccines Do You Need?*

Crowded cities make ideal locations for spread of common diseases.  A big trip such as travel to China is an excellent opportunity to update your routine vaccinations.

Routine Immunizations 

Many children in the USA are better immunized than their adult counterparts. The immunization schedules have changed over time, and many adults have not caught up yet.

Influenza: one of the least glamorous vaccine, but the most likely vaccine-preventable illness you will be exposed to. You need a dose annually.

Tdap: Has it been 10 or more years since your last tetanus vaccine? Are you pregnant? Are you often around children? If so discuss Tdap with your doctor.

MMR: Many adults have not had two MMR vaccines. At the time they were growing up only one was recommended.  Get your second (and last one) before you travel, since measles is common world-wide.

Pneumonia:(P23) If you smoke, have asthma, other chronic conditions or are over age 65 talk to your doctor about getting the pneumonia vaccine.

Chickenpox: (Varicella)Two does of vaccine or prior disease provides adequate protection. This is very common worldwide, so if you are not protected you may have an unpleasant surprise- a case of chickenpox.

Travel Immunizations 

In addition to routine vaccines several travel vaccinations are recommended before traveling to Shanghai or Beijing.

Hepatitis A: is recommended for everyone. It is a common illness that is spread through poor hand washing and food.  You will need two doses 6 months apart for full protection. If you don’t have enough time, one dose often works well. OR if you are getting Hepatitis B too there is an accelerated schedule of Twinrix (Combination Hepatitis A+B  vaccine) which can provide protection in a little as 21 days.

Hepatitis B: is very common in China. Immunization is recommend for everyone, especially if you will be making multiple trips or have an extended stay. Hepatitis B is spread through body fluids; if you needed health care (stitches,etc.), have a new sexual partner, or new tattoo you are at risk for contracting Hepatitis B. Get protected–in some the disease can progress on to severe illness and liver cancer. It takes 3 doses over 6 months for full protection, however an accelerated schedule of Twinrix can be given over 21 days.

Typhoid: May or may not be right for you. If you are eating at places off the usual tourist itinerary, participating in a home-stay, or are and adventurous eater get protected. Likewise, if you will be making multiple trips, it is best to be protected.

Polio: This is recommended for travel to Xinjiang province, which is far away from these cities. This is not typically recommended for visits limited to Shanghai and Beijing.

Japanese Encephalitis: This vaccine is recommended for travelers to the rural areas.  So not needed for itineraries limited to Beijing and/or Shanghai.

Rabies: This is not typically recommended for Shanghai or Beijing. Rabies vaccine is usually recommended for people traveling in rural areas or working with animals.  All animal bites (even in cities) are potentially rabid, and may require leaving China for proper treatment. Discuss treatment strategies with your travel medicine provider.

Preparing for travels to Shanghai and Beijing includes updating your vaccines.  Allow 4-6 weeks to prepare for your travels.  Travelers to Shanghai and Beijing, China are recommend to be up-to-date on routine vaccines, immunized against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, Polio, and possibly Typhoid.

The CDC has a fascinating podcast about preparing for travel to China.

In addition to these immunizations, there are other preparations needed for staying healthy while traveling.  Talk to your travel medicine specialist to develop a plan for management of travelers diarrhea, animal bites, blood clots in the legs, and travel health insurance.  Ideally, you will have time to visit your travel medicine specialist 4-6 weeks in advance of travel, but don’t worry if you have less time–they can help you prepare on short notice.

*As with all vaccines, check with your doctor. These are general recommendations, your underlying health may affect  your specific recommendations.


photo courtesy of tequillapartners



  1. Thank you… I will be arriving in Shanghai in one week and had considered some vaccinations/immunizations. I’ll have to get over to Costco and do what I can this week. :)

  2. This has been helpful. Thank you!


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