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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 07:47 PM EDT

FAQ: What Shots Do I Need for Panama?

Healthcare Question: I understand that Panama has recently passed a new law requiring all visitors to have current vaccinations, and that those entering the country will be required to show an international vaccination record when entering the country. So, what shots are required to enter Panama?

Answer: Panama's Ministry of Health is tasked by law to specify what vaccinations are required. Their program is called the "Programa Ampliado de lnmunizaciones" (PAI) (Extended Immunization Program). Within this program they publish the "Esquema Nacional de lnmunizaciones" (National Immunization Scheme), which specifies what vaccinations are required by who, at what age, special conditions, etc. So far I have not been able to find a link to this document (but I know it's there somewhere.) The new law as published does not contain a comprehensive list of required vaccinations, but rather simply talks about new vaccinations that will be funded through the law and provided to the Panamanian population through the new immunization program. There are, however, other sources that will work as a start for now; (more)

Plan Ahead: See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect. If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

The Common Sense Approach: MD Travel Health makes the following recommendations for those who will be traveling to Panama:

  • Hepatitis A - Recommended for all travelers.
  • Typhoid - Recommended for all travelers.
  • Yellow fever - Recommended for all travelers to the provinces of Darien, Kunayala (San Blas), and Panama, excluding the Canal Zone.
  • Hepatitis B - For travelers who may have intimate contact with local residents, especially if visiting for more than 6 months.
  • Rabies - For travelers who may have direct contact with animals and may not have access to medical care.
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) - Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given.
  • Tetanus-diphtheria - Revaccination recommended every 10 years.
  • Malaria: Prophylaxis is recommended for rural areas in the provinces of Bocas del Toro, Darien and San Blas.

Panama's Immunizations Schedule: According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Panama's immunization schedule (as of 2005) is as follows:

  • Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a vaccine against tuberculosis - birth;

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and whole-cell pertussis (whooping cough) (DTwP) - 4 to 5 years;

  • Diphtheria and tetanus toxoid with whole cell pertussis and Hib vaccine - 18 Months;

  • Diphtheria and tetanus toxoid with whole cell pertussis, Hib and HepB vaccine (DTwPHibHep) - 2, 4, 6 months;

  • (*Note - This list of immunizations in Panama were taken from a WHO chart that talks about the percentage of immunization coverage of the entire population. The recent migration toward combining more coverage into one series of shots means that ten year-old kids might have just gotten DTwP, but kids born now will get the DTwPHibHep series.)

  • HepB - birth;

  • Influenza - 60 years;

  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) - 12 months; 4-5 years;

  • MR - 20-49 years;

  • Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) - birth; 2, 4, 6, 18 months; 4-5 years;

  • Td - 6 years (x2);

  • VitaminA - 6-11, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36 months; Part of country

  • Yellow Fever - 1 year; [high risk areas]

Going To MINSA: This week I'm going to be visiting Panama's Ministry of Health (MINSA) to talk to the people who administer the country's vaccination program, and I'm sure I will get a complete listing of what's required for visitors then.

What's The Big Deal? For us retired military guys, carrying your "shot record" with you wherever you go is a fact of life. Serving in the military gives you the opportunity to travel all over the world, meet nice people, and catch their diseases. So, this issue is going to be very important to someone who doesn't travel internationally often, but coming to Panama is "like going to a whole different country." . Get a shot record, update your shots, and be happy.

Copyright 2007 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. As usual, go ahead and use whatever you want as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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