Rabies Pre-Exposure Vaccine

Is there a vaccine against rabies?

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How many doses of pre-exposure vaccine are needed?

  • To provide the best protection, a series of 3 shots should be given:
    • 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 may also be given boosters, depending on their level of immunity.

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Who should get rabies pre-exposure vaccine?

People who will be:

  • 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 may expose them to rabies such as:
    • certain laboratory workers
    • veterinarians
    • animal control
    • wildlife workers
    • forest rangers
    • miners

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Who should not get rabies pre-exposure vaccine?

Anyone who:

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

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

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Where can I receive the pre-exposure vaccine?

  • Contact your family doctor to discuss receiving the vaccine.

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Is the rabies vaccine safe?

  • It is common to have temporary soreness, redness, swelling and itching where the rabies shot was given.
  • Five to 40 per cent of people who receive the vaccine may have the following symptoms, which usually go away after two days:
    • headache
    • nausea
    • abdominal pain
    • muscle aches
    • dizziness
  • These symptoms usually go away after 2 days.

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If I notice something unusual after the vaccine is given, when should I see a doctor?

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

  • high fever (over 40° C or 104° F)
  • crying for more than three 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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Related links:

Canadian Immunization Guide: Rabies Vaccine
Public Health Agency of Canada