For visitors and tourists, China does not require any particular vaccines unless you are arriving from a country that has a high risk of yellow fever.
If you’re traveling through or are a citizen of one of these countries with yellow fever risk, which are all located in Africa, Central & South America, you’ll likely already have a Yellow Fever vaccination anyway.
At no point during the China visa process will you be asked for proof of immunization.
The China vaccinations you choose are entirely voluntary and although many of us were immunized as children, the schedules have changed over time so it’s worth comparing what you have versus what is now recommended.
Recommended China Vaccinations Based on Destination
It makes a difference where you’re traveling in China and how long you’ll be there.
The Centers for Disease Control and most doctors recommend a wide range of vaccinations for China based on your length of stay and where exactly you’ll be headed to.
Vaccinations for China’s Big Cities
If you never plan to leave the major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, routine immunizations usually cover you well. This is true whether you’re traveling as a tourist or living in the city as an expatriate.
These routine immunizations include:
- MMR: Measles-mumps-rubella
- Tdap: This is also known as the tetanus vaccine.
- Varicella: This is the chickenpox vaccine.
- Polio vaccine
- Your yearly flu shot
Visiting China’s Rural Areas
For those travelers who have plans to travel outside the major cities but won’t be in the country for very long, the CDC recommends you consider the following vaccinations for China:
- Hepatitis A: This vaccine is recommended because there are parts of China where contaminated food or water puts you at risk of Hepatitis A.
- Typhoid: This is recommended for those who are staying in the homes of friends or relatives in smaller cities throughout China.
Recommendations for Traveling Long-Term into China’s Rural Areas
Finally, if you plan to venture into rural areas of China or hope to stay for a month or longer, the CDC recommends you discuss the following immunizations with your doctor:
- Hepatitis B: Since this is usually spread by blood or contaminated needles, you’ll want to make sure you have this China vaccination if you have any plans of getting a tattoo, piercing or any type of medical procedure in the country.
- Japanese Encephalitis: This is particularly important in rural areas where you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.
- Polio: The CDC recommends this China vaccination for those visiting the Xinjiang region, working at a healthcare facility or doing humanitarian aid of any kind.
- Rabies: This is recommended if there’s any particular reason you’ll be around animals while in China.
- Yellow Fever: There is low yellow fever risk in the country, but you’ll need this vaccination for China if you’re coming from a country that does. You can find a list of countries with a risk of yellow fever here.
- Malaria: If you plan to do outdoor hiking or camping in China, anywhere that might expose you to mosquitoes in China, taking measures to prevent malaria might be a good idea
Final Thoughts on Healthcare in China
The bottom line is that you need to ask your personal physician what they think about recommended vaccinations for China. Schedule an appointment at least 6 weeks in advance of your trip so that you have plenty of time to add any immunizations you don’t have.