Is There a Vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis?
Yes. In the United States, the Japanese encephalitis vaccine is a two-dose shot called Ixiaro. It’s approved for people 2 months old and older. Vaccines made in other countries aren’t licensed for use in the U.S.
From 1993 -- when a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis became available in the U.S. -- through 2017, doctors have reported 12 cases of Japanese encephalitis among American travelers.
The CDC recommends you get vaccinated with Ixiaro if you’re:
- Moving to an Asian or western Pacific country where Japanese encephalitis is endemic (commonly found)
- Traveling there for a month or longer, or visiting often
- Traveling there for less than a month but facing a higher risk for infection, based on things like the season, your exact destination, the places you’ll be staying, and the things you’ll be doing
Ask your doctor if you should get vaccinated even if you’re not sure about the specifics of how long you’ll be traveling to an endemic area, the exact areas you’ll be visiting, or the activities you’ll be doing.
The CDC doesn’t recommend the Japanese encephalitis vaccine if you’re taking a short trip to urban areas or traveling during a season where the virus isn’t spreading as much. If you’re not sure whether you need to get the vaccine, check with your doctor and tell them about your travel plans.
If you get vaccinated with Ixiaro, you’ll need two doses. People 18 to 65 years old can get their second dose as early as 7 days after the first. Everyone else should get their second dose 28 days after the first.
You should get the second dose of the vaccine at least 1 week before you travel. And you should get a third (booster) dose if you got your first two shots a year ago or longer and you’re still at risk of catching the Japanese encephalitis virus.
In general, the vaccine can bring on mild side effects like:
- Pain and tenderness around where you got the shot
- Muscle aches
- Low-grade fever
A dose of Ixiaro (0.5 milliliters, the amount that people 3 years old and up get) may cost anywhere from $250 to $340 or more without insurance, depending on which pharmacy you buy it from and what discounts you can get. If you have health insurance, you can call your insurer and ask if they cover any or all of the cost.