Let’s start off with the official line and say “YES!” All travelers be updated on routine vaccines before traveling. Actually, you should have your routine vaccinations up to date even if you are not traveling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tasked to protect Americans from health, safety, and security threats, both foreign and in the United States.
The CDC, following the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), has created a list of recommended vaccinations. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. Other than the yearly flu shot and the tetanus shot which has a ten year booster, these are generally completed in childhood and few people need to have additional vaccinations. In recent years, the CDC has put additional attention on the measles vaccination for travelers. Measles has been officially eradicated from the United States since the year 2000. The occasional measles outbreaks have all been traced back to travelers that were not vaccinated.
The WHO and the CDC has broken down vaccinations for travel into three categories: required, recommended, and routine. While many school districts require certain vaccinations to be enrolled in school, these vaccinations are in the routine category of the CDC. A vaccination for Yellow Fever is the only vaccine that is currently listed as “required” by International Health Regulations. The “required” term is somewhat confusing. While the CDC lists it as required for certain countries, the U.S. government does not require proof of vaccination to enter the United States from those countries.
Also, the “required” only applies to certain countries and the CDC does not recommend the vaccination if you are not going to those countries. Currently there are 42 countries on the yellow fever risk list of the WHO. Some countries, however, do require proof of vaccination for travel to and from yellow fever risk countries. The best place to determine what countries require proof of vaccinations from the WHO website, on their country list.
The CDC has a travel page that makes recommendations and posts special health concerns. Recently the CDC warned tourists that Hepatitis A has been reported in US travelers who went to Tulum, Mexico. Also, on the CDC Travel page is a recommended vaccination list by country that you should review and discuss with your health care professional, if you have any questions. You can select the country you are visiting and the type of traveling, and they will provide a list of what they recommend and why.
Cruise ship passengers have little or no exposure to the risks that are on the CDC list, leading to very few passengers requiring additional vaccinations if they have the childhood ones. Still, it is best to talk with your health care provider for your individual situation after reviewing the CDC information.