1. Overview
  2. Vaccination


A vaccine is available to help protect people at risk of being exposed to rabies.

But even if you've been vaccinated, you should get urgent medical help if you're bitten or scratched by an animal that may have had rabies.

Who should have the rabies vaccine


You should consider getting vaccinated against rabies if:

  • you're travelling to an area where rabies is common and you plan to stay for a month or more or there's unlikely to be quick access to appropriate medical care
  • you're travelling to an area where rabies is common and you plan to do activities that could put you at increased risk of exposure to animals with rabies, such as running or cycling

For information about areas where rabies is a risk, see:

It takes three to four weeks to complete the vaccine course, so you ideally need to start it at least a month before you plan to leave.

Pregnant women are advised to have the rabies vaccine if the risk of exposure to rabies is thought to be high and there's limited access to medical care.

People at risk through their work

Vaccination is also recommended for anyone at risk of being exposed to rabies through their job, such as:

  • people who regularly handle bats
  • people who handle imported animals – such as workers at zoos or animal quarantine centres
  • laboratory workers who handle rabies samples

If you think this applies to you, speak to your occupational health department.

Where to get the rabies vaccine

Your local GP surgery may be able to give you the rabies vaccination, although you may need to pay for it (see below).

Alternatively, you can pay for the vaccine at a private travel vaccination clinic.

Will I have to pay for the rabies vaccine?

You will usually have to pay for the rabies vaccine if you need it for protection while travelling.

The vaccine involves three doses. Each dose usually costs around £40 to £55, with a full course typically costing around £120 to £165

If you need the vaccine because there's a risk you could be exposed to the infection through your job, you might be able to have it for free. Ask your employer or occupational health department about this.

How the rabies vaccine is given

The rabies vaccination is given as injections into your upper arm.

You'll need three doses of the vaccine. The second dose is given seven days after the first. The third dose is given 14 or 21 days after the second.

If you're planning to travel to an area where rabies is found, you should complete the full course of three doses before your departure.

Booster doses

If you've been vaccinated against rabies before but you continue to be at risk (for example, through your job), you may need further "booster" doses to ensure you stay protected.

Speak to your occupational health department about this.

For travellers, a booster dose may be considered if you were first vaccinated 10 or more years ago and you're travelling to a high-risk area again.

Side effects of the rabies vaccine

After having the rabies vaccine, some people have temporary soreness, redness and swelling at the injection site for 24-48 hours.

In rare cases, some people also experience:

  • a mild high temperature (fever)
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • vomiting
  • a rash

The vaccines used in the UK contain dead (inactive) rabies virus, so you can't catch rabies by being vaccinated.

Page last reviewed: 23/02/2017
Next review due: 23/02/2020