Typhoid vaccines explained

19th March, 2021 • 5 min read

If you’re travelling to or live in an area where there’s a high risk of typhoid fever, getting a typhoid vaccine can help lower your chances of becoming infected.

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So here’s all you need to know about typhoid fever vaccines, from who should have them and the different types available, to how reliable they are and who shouldn’t be vaccinated.

Why is there a vaccine for typhoid?

Typhoid vaccines help prevent

typhoid fever
, a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella typhi. It’s very easy to catch (contagious) and spreads through food or water that’s been contaminated with poo or urine from an infected person.

To start with, typhoid fever causes symptoms such as a high temperature (fever) and headache. But if it isn’t treated it can cause serious health problems.

If left untreated, typhoid fever can be life-threatening, and up to 30% of people who don’t get treatment die.

If you have typhoid fever, you can also spread it to other people. And even if you no longer have symptoms, you can still be a ‘carrier’ of the disease.

Who should have a typhoid vaccine?

The vaccine is generally recommended if you’re going to be spending time in a part of the world where typhoid fever is common.

High-risk areas include:

  • the Indian subcontinent
  • Africa
  • South and Southeast Asia
  • South America

It’s particularly important to consider getting a vaccination if you’re going to be staying with people in places with poor sanitation and food hygiene, as this is where typhoid is most likely to occur.

Are there different typhoid vaccine names and types?

There are 3 main types of vaccine for typhoid fever:

  • inactivated typhoid vaccine – sometimes called the Vi vaccine, this is given as a single injection or ‘shot’ and is suitable from 2 years of age
  • live typhoid vaccine – sometimes called the Ty21a vaccine, this is given as a series of tablets that you take on alternate days and it’s suitable from 6 years of age
  • typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) – 2 TCV vaccines are licensed in India. They’re given as a single injection and are suitable from 6 months of age

When should I get a typhoid vaccine?

If you’re going to a high-risk area, it’s best to get a typhoid vaccine at least 1 month before you go. But you can have it closer to your travel date if necessary.

The protection the vaccine gives doesn’t last forever, so you may need a ‘booster’ dose at a later date if you’re still at risk. Depending on which type of vaccine you have, this may be recommended every 2 to 5 years.

How effective is the typhoid vaccine?

While having a vaccine will help protect you against typhoid fever, none of the typhoid vaccines are 100% effective. This means it’s still possible to get typhoid fever after you’ve been vaccinated.

So it’s important to be careful about what you eat or drink when you’re in an area where typhoid is common. It’s best to only drink bottled water – or water that’s been boiled – and avoid eating uncooked fruit and vegetables.

Who shouldn’t have a typhoid vaccine?

The Vi and Ty21a vaccines aren’t suitable for children under 2 years of age.

The Ty21a vaccine isn’t suitable for you if you have a weakened immune system – because you have HIV or are having chemotherapy treatment, for example – as it’s made with a live sample of Salmonella typhi bacteria.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should speak to your healthcare provider before having a typhoid vaccine.

Are there typhoid vaccine side effects?

It’s rare to get a bad reaction to a typhoid vaccine.

If you have an injection, you may notice some soreness, redness, swelling or hardness around the injection site.

Other possible side effects from a typhoid vaccine include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C or above
  • tummy pain
  • headache
  • feeling sick
  • diarrhoea

If you do get any side effects, they’ll usually be mild and go away on their own after a few days. They’re a sign that your body is starting to build up protection (immunity) against infection.

When to seek help

Although bad reactions are rare, there’s a small chance that a typhoid vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction.

Get medical help straight away if you have signs of an allergic reaction, including:

  • swellings and redness on your skin (hives)
  • swelling of your face and throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • a fast heartbeat
  • dizziness
  • weakness

If you have any other symptoms that worry you after having a typhoid vaccine, speak to a doctor for advice.

Key points

  • typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that spreads through contaminated water or food
  • it can be serious, so if you’re travelling or living in areas where it’s common, you may want to get a vaccine
  • there are 3 main types of typhoid vaccine
  • none of the vaccines are 100% effective, so you should still be careful about what you eat and drink
  • it’s common to have a mild reaction to a vaccine, but this usually only lasts a few days
  • if you have signs of an allergic reaction, get medical help straight away

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.