Tick-Borne Encephalitis Vaccine

Based on a review by the World Health Organization ( http://www.who.int/immunization/topics/tick_encephalitis/en/), currently, there are four widely used vaccines of assured quality: FSME-Immun (also known as TicoVac and TicoVac Junior in UK) and Encepur, manufactured in Austria and Germany respectively, and based on European strains of the virus; and TBE-Moscow and EnceVir, manufactured in the Russian Federation and based on Far-Eastern strains. The four vaccines are considered to be safe and efficacious.

Vaccination against the disease requires a primary series of 3 doses. Little information is available on the duration of protection following completion of the primary 3-dose immunization series and on the need for, and optimal intervals between, possible booster doses. Some authorities suggest that immunity lasts for 3 years. Booster doses are required to maintain immunity and should be given every 3 years. The optimum time to begin the course of vaccination is during the winter months in order to ensure protection prior to the start of the tick season in spring.

Outside of countries where the disease exists, these vaccines may not be licensed or available. Currently, these vaccines are not available in the United States. Vaccines are available in Canada (adult dosage only), Russia and Europe.

Travellers are usually at risk during the summer months when hiking or camping in rural or forested areas that provide a habitat for the ticks that carry the virus.  The vaccine should be offered only to at-risk travellers. 

What are the side effects?

Mild side effects include headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, nausea, fatigue, and soreness and redness at the site of the injection.  Less commonly, some people may experience fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

What is the dosage schedule?

Two doses are given 4 to 12 weeks apart and a third dose is given 9 to12 months after.  If more rapid protection is required, two doses of vaccine can be administered a minimum of two weeks apart. In this case, the third dose should be administered 5 to12 months after the second vaccination.