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Rabies Pre-Exposure Vaccine

 

The rabies vaccine is available for both pre- and post-exposure. Learn about the pre-exposure rabies vaccine and how to get it.

Doses

To provide the best protection, a person should get a series of 3 shots:

  • 2 injections, 1 week apart
  • A 3rd injection, 2 weeks after the second injection

A booster shot is recommended after 2 years for travel to areas where the risk of rabies is high. People working in jobs where there is a continued risk of exposure to rabies might also get boosters, depending on their level of immunity.

Who should get the vaccine

The pre-exposure rabies vaccination should be given to people:

  • Spending 1 month or more in countries where rabies is common
  • Travelling in rural areas in countries where rabies is common and where a major medical centre is more than 24 hours away
  • Working in a job that might expose them to rabies such as:
    • Certain laboratory workers
    • Veterinarians
    • Animal control
    • Wildlife workers
    • Forest rangers
    • Miners

Who should not get the vaccine

The pre-exposure rabies vaccination should not be given to people who:

  • Had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of rabies vaccine
  • Are allergic to any component of the vaccine (e.g., neomycin, phenol)
  • Are ill with an infection or fever
  • Are pregnant, unless specifically advised by a doctor

Tell your healthcare provider about any allergies, medications you are taking, illnesses or any previous suspected reactions to any vaccine, since they might affect the response to the vaccine.

Getting the vaccine

Contact your family doctor to discuss receiving the vaccine.

Safety

It is common to have temporary soreness, redness, swelling and itching where the rabies shot was given.

Some people (5% - 40%) who receive the vaccine might have the following symptoms, which usually go away after 2 days:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Dizziness

Seeing a doctor

See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away if you develop any of the following symptoms within 3 weeks of getting the rabies vaccine:

  • High fever (over 40° C or 104° F)
  • Crying for more than 3 hours in young children
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Very pale colour and serious drowsiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face or mouth
  • Trouble breathing
  • Other serious problems
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