Medications, Prescriptions, & Immunizations
If you currently take prescription medication, you will want to plan ahead for your semester abroad. Medication cannot be shipped to you from overseas. To obtain a supply of medication for the duration of your study abroad program, talk with your physician. Be sure your physician provides you with a copy of the prescription and/or a physician's statement. You may need to present it when you enter the host country to document your need to carry in medication. You may also want to have your doctor prescribe substitute or alternate prescriptions in case your exact medication is not available overseas. You should also write down the generic name of your medication(s), as medical practitioners in other countries may not be familiar with brand names used in the US.
Once you have met with your physician and obtained a prescription that will last you for the duration of your stay abroad, contact both your pharmacy and insurance provider and alert them to your travel plans. Your pharmacy may need to verify the prescription with your physician, and in some cases special order your medication(s) so that it will be in stock just before you leave. When calling your insurance provider, ask for a “vacation override”. Once this override is put in place, you will be able to buy your prescription(s) at your normal monthly copay rate. If this is not done ahead of time, you may need to pay the out of pocket cost which can be substantial. Be sure to make these arrangements at least two weeks before your departure as the process can be complicated and lengthy.
Some countries restrict certain medications entirely or limit the amount you can bring with you in-country. Be sure to confirm that your medication is allowed in country, and if so, how much you can have with you upon arrival. International SOS can assist you in understanding the regulations for your host country. Additionally, be sure to always carry your medications in the official, labeled container you receive from the pharmacy.
All study abroad participants should consult with a healthcare provider who specializes in travel medicine for accurate, up-to-date pre-travel advice. To find out what immunizations you may need, consult the Traveler's Health section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
It is preferable to plan to receive your immunizations well in advance of your departure. Many immunizations are given in stages. For example, you might require a series of shots over several months to acquire full coverage. Receiving your immunizations well in advance of departure also allows time for necessary treatment before your departure in the unlikely event you have an adverse reaction.
Students on campus prior to their study abroad semester can obtain vaccinations at the GW Student Health Center. If you are away from the District of Columbia at the time you are planning your vaccinations, be aware that your own family healthcare provider may not stock specialized vaccines such as typhoid or yellow fever. If this is the case, we recommend that you contact a local area clinic that specializes in travelers' health. Additional information and International Certificates of Vaccination can be obtained from the World Health Organization. Be sure to let the health center or clinic know that you are inquiring about medical preparations for study abroad and advise what vaccinations you need when you make an appointment. Medical providers may need to order some vaccines and will need time to obtain them.
Some countries may require you to provide proof of your immunizations as part of the visa process or upon arrival. To supply this information, ask your physician to provide you with a list of shots you have received to date and other medical conditions. Carry this card with your passport while traveling.