Reach More Customers with Travel Vaccines


Become travelers’ first stop year round

For independent pharmacies, travel vaccines represent a large, growing, cash-based business opportunity. As more Americans travel to more locations for more reasons, this opportunity will continue to grow. Making travel vaccines part of your store’s offering and actively marketing them year-round will help increase traffic and grow revenues.

Maximize Your Situation

Travel vaccines represent a significant opportunity for independent pharmacies. For some pharmacies, this will represent a completely new area; for others, there is an opportunity to think even more broadly and capture a greater piece of the travel vaccine market.

  • If you already offer travel vaccines, perhaps the opportunity is even bigger than you realize and there is even more business to be had. You already have worked to put the infrastructure and operations in place — now, how can you leverage your capabilities to generate even more revenue?One way to grow this business is by marketing travel vaccines year-round, not just during busy leisure travel times; a pharmacy that markets travel vaccines only during prime vacation periods is like an airline flying only a few months a year.
  • If you don’t offer travel vaccines in your pharmacy, you might consider tapping into this growing opportunity, which fits well with what many independent pharmacies are already doing. Travelers spend about $550 each on healthcare services before they take a trip, and much of it is cash-based and out of pocket.1 The major pharmacy chains are offering travel vaccine services, as is Costco. For more information, read “Take the Road More Traveled” and check your state regulations.

Common Travel Vaccines

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Rabies

Millions Travel Year-Round

The reality is that millions of people travel year-round for multiple reasons.

In 2013, nearly 30 million U.S. residents traveled abroad, and U.S. citizens made nearly 70 million trips abroad in 2014; each month more than 4 million people leave the United States to travel to foreign countries.2 Leisure travel is just one of the reasons for travel. Of the 30 million Americans who traveled abroad in 2013, nearly 5 million of them traveled for business or to conventions.3 About 4 million U.S. students travel for study abroad each year.4 In addition, an estimated 2 million Americans participate in mission trips.5

Getting the necessary vaccines is an important part of preparing to travel abroad. Travelers may need to update routine vaccines or receive additional immunizations when traveling for:

  • Vacation
  • Business
  • Study abroad and cultural exchanges
  • Disaster relief
  • Mission trips
  • Goodwill, diplomatic or program promotion reasons

In one study of travelers who became sick after returning to the U.S., more than 33% had been on vacation; about 25% had traveled because of mission and volunteer trips, research and aid work; 15% traveled for business; and 6% were students.6

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that international travelers be current on both their routine and travel vaccines is one reason for a projected annual growth rate of more than 4% in the U.S. vaccine market from now through 2020.7

Sell More Than a Shot

By learning about travelers’ health needs, your pharmacy can also offer consultations for a fee to guide customers through sometimes confusing regulations and offer tips to keep them healthy on the road. During a travel consultation, you can discuss required and recommended vaccinations, and explain potential dangers not only to the traveler but also if unvaccinated people bring diseases such as measles back to their communities in the United States.8 Because travelers should be planning for vaccines about six weeks before they leave, you have flexibility to schedule consultations and vaccinations at a time that is convenient to both your customer and your pharmacy staff. (Note: People traveling for disaster relief may need quick access to vaccines. McKesson’s distribution centers keep in stock the vaccines needed for those situations.)

In analyzing a customer’s travel plans, you may need to consider not only their ultimate destination but also locations they are traveling through and specific concerns related to their reason for travel. For example, a report in JAMA Internal Medicine warns that travelers to the Olympic Games in Brazil next year may be exposed to additional health risks because of the large crowds.9 The CDC also has vaccination and other health recommendations for travelers to most countries in the world, and for example, specifically for people planning to participate in the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca required of Muslims.10

In addition to ensuring they have the necessary immunizations, travelers will want to have enough prescription medications for the length of their planned trip and a few extra days. They also may need to carry special supplies, such as an epinephrine injection. The requirements for traveling with medications and medical equipment are another area where travelers may need guidance.11

Customers may also want to pick up a traveler’s first aid kit, OTC medications that they may not want to attempt to find in a foreign country, water purification tablets, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, insect repellant, and more. Your pharmacy can become a one-stop shop for travel health needs. These items, like travel vaccines, tend to be a cash business that can bring in additional revenue — paid for out of pocket by customers at the time of purchase.

Market to Groups

By marketing your pharmacy’s travel vaccine services to employers, schools and universities, faith-based organizations, government and non-governmental agencies, and others who sponsor or lead overseas trips, you can capture the business of entire groups that travel regularly, and not just an individual or family. And beyond vaccines, these groups may need other items or services for their trip that your pharmacy can help provide. 

Part of Your Vaccine Program

For more information about increasing your entire immunization business, see: “Start Planning Now for the 2015–16 Flu Season,” “Take Your Flu Shot Services into the Community,” “Vaccines for Teens,” and “Vaccinations: A Shot in the Arm for Community Pharmacies.”


Additional Resources for Traveler Vaccines and Health

The Immunization Action Coalition offers a page of Vaccination Resources for Pharmacists.

The CDC Health Information for International Travel, known as the Yellow Book and updated every two years, is now available as an app for Android and iOS devices. The CDC has specific recommendations for disaster responders. It also offers recommendations for what to pack in a travel health kit.

The U.S. Department of State offers recommendations for health insurance, traveling with medications, and more.

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommends that employers refer workers who travel internationally to healthcare professionals for vaccines and preventive measures to protect their health.


1 “Travel Medicine and Travel Vaccines: An Investment with a Healthy Return,” Caitlin Bradford, PassportHealth, June 3, 2013. LINK
2 “U.S. Citizen Traffic to Overseas Regions, Canada and Mexico, 2014,” U.S. International Trade Administration, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. LINK
3 “Profile of U.S. Resident Travelers Visiting Overseas Destinations: 2013 Outbound,” U.S. Commerce Department, National Travel and Tourism Office. LINK
4 “Global Flow of Tertiary-Level Students,” UNESCO Institute for Statistics, May 5, 2014. LINK
5 “Research and Statistics,” LINK
6 “Do Not Skip Travel History, Sentinel Clinic Data Show,” Laird Harrison, Medscape Multispecialty, Oct. 7, 2014. LINK
7 “U.S. Vaccine Market Expected to Reach USD 17.3 Billion in 2020,” Transparency Market Research, Jan. 27, 2015. LINK
8 “Measles,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 20, 2015. LINK
9 “Health and Safety Issues for Travelers Attending the World Cup and Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil, 2014 to 2016,” JAMA Internal Medicine, August 2014. LINK
10 “Yellow Book: Chapter 4,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Aug. 1, 2013. LINK
11 “Travelling with Medications and Medical Equipment across International Borders, Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, Aug. 6, 2014. LINK