As with many things in life, there’s the official way and the way most people do things. This is definitely the case with immunizations for Panama.
Panamá’s public health standards are very similar to the U.S. However, it isthe tropics and there are areas of dense living with less than ideal sanitary conditions in pockets throughout the country. And, while the government has active campaigns to control mosquitos (the transmitters of yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria) in the populated areas, they cannot possibly control them in the dense jungle areas.
So, the need for vaccinations depends on where you will be visiting in Panamá. For the most part, yellow fever and malaria have been eradicated in the populated areas and are really only a concern if you’ll be deep in the jungle.
The official recommendation by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) is that all visitors should be up-to-date on their regular immunizations (including tetanus) and “most” visitors should get Hepatitis A and Typhoid shots based on the risks of these diseases throughout Panamá.
It’s recommended that you get yellow fever and malaria vaccinations if you’ll be visiting any mainland area east of the canal, including the provinces of Darién, Emberá, Kuna Yala (AKA Guna Yala), Colón and Panama; they are not considered necessary if you’re visiting areas west of the canal, Panama City, the canal itself, or the Balboa (Pearl) or San Blas Islands. Note that if you’re an American and do decide to get a yellow fever vaccination, plan ahead as they’re not always easy to come by.
Vista Cañas is located in the Playa Venao area of Panamá, which is west of the canal so there’s no need for yellow fever or malaria vaccinations.
There are some special circumstances that may call for additional immunizations for Panama:
- Hepatitis B—if you plan on having sex with someone new, get a tattoo or piercing or have any planned medical procedures.
- Rabies—if you are traveling to a remote area, doing adventure travel (such as caving where you may be exposed to bats) or you’ll be around wild animals.
- Zika—if you’re pregnant, you should get educated on this and talk to your obstetrician.
There have been cases of dengue fever in the populated areas. The good news is that it’s much like a nasty flu and rarely fatal. It’s a problem in areas where waters are stagnant, specifically in urban areas close to Panama City and Colon. Panamá has gotten it largely under control, but previously known problematic areas were around Chorrera (Western Panamá), San Miguelito in Panama City, and certain areas of Chiriqui where there are waste disposal issues. Whether you decide to get vaccinated or now, definitely get educated on the symptoms so you can recognize them early enough to get treated.
Visit the CDC for the most up-to-date information on immunizations for Panama. And, here’s a helpful independent resource for more vaccination info—Lonely Planet on Panamá Health.
For more info on Panamá and the Azuero Peninsula, head over to our FAQs!