Planning on a Holiday? Immunize Before You Take that Trip!

By HealthSignz | Published: April 28th, 2017

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Passports are to travel as vaccines are to health!

Everybody wishes to travel to places that they have never been before. At the same time, they wish to travel when healthy. But every country has different environment and chances for travellers to fall prey to infections and diseases is high. What precaution can one really take then?

Vaccination is the solution. Vaccinations help body fight against the disease by exposing it to a germ or parts of germ of the disease. Travel immunizations or travel vaccines are vaccine shots that travellers can get before they plan to visit any part of the world with a motive to protect themselves from any serious illness. Travel vaccines help body acclimatize to different country environments across the globe.

Most countries are known to have immunization certifications as a prerequisite before issuing visa or offering entry into the country. It is ideal to have an official certificate from a doctor or travel health centre regarding the vaccination status.

Irrespective of any circumstances, everybody needs vaccination. It is very rare to not need vaccinations. The healthcare specialists usually are the ones to decide if any vaccine is not needed based on previous allergies or mental or physical basis.

Which vaccines are needed?

Vaccinations do not depend on the destination, rather on various factors such as vaccinations done in the past, current medication status, and allergies if any. It also depends on the length of the trip, work plan or vacation as well as travel to rural or any other areas.

Below is a list of vaccinations that need to be considered with routine immunizations before any travel plans:

  1. Tetanus Diphtheria (TD) Vaccine: Often given along with Diphtheria, Tetanus vaccination protects adolescents and adults from Tetanus and Diphtheria infections that are caused by bacteria. The dose is recommended every 10 years or can be given if someone hurts themselves resulting in a burn or wound.
  2. Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): IPV can prevent polio. Most people receive this vaccine when they are young. However, as a safety measure, adult who are traveling to certain parts of the world, might require a vaccine shot.
  3. Influenza: Commonly known as flu, it is recommended for all age groups including infants and young children as it protects the body against influenza viruses. The disease is known to even lead to death if not treated on time.
  4. Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine: Given usually in the childhood, MMR vaccine is known to protect from the virus that is likely to cause brain damage, birth defects or even lead to death.

In addition, world travellers will probably need some of the following travel-related immunizations:

  1. Cholera: In special circumstances, one should get cholera vaccination. Even though it is against the international law, Latin America and Africa demand immunization certificate from travellers crossing the border. Discuss with a doctor to get a certificate of exemption or some other form of relevant documentation that may be needed for travelling.
  2. Hepatitis A: All world travellers should protect themselves of hepatitis A. The vaccine offers protection for several years, and in some cases, might need booster. Recently, a new vaccine combined hepatitis A and typhoid, is made available to help cut down on the number of injections one must put up with.
  3. Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for long-term travellers and to those who travel to Africa, China, South Asia and Indian subcontinent. Medic or nurses and children are to mandatorily take the vaccine. Some might need to take the vaccination if there is needle sharing or sexual contact in the destination they are to live. A combined hepatitis A and B vaccine is available to cut down on the number of injections one must consider for good health.
  4. Japanese B Encephalitis: This vaccine is a mandatory if the individual is planning on spending more than a month in the rural areas of Indian subcontinent, China, Southeast Asia, Japan, Philippines or Pacific Islands.
  5. Meningococcal Meningitis: This vaccine is recommended for people travelling to Nepal, Pakistan, India, Mongolia and few areas of Vietnam. There have been reported cases of this disease breaking out in some parts of Latin America. The epidemic of this disease occurs periodically in African regions of Sahel area that continues till Zambia and Malawi.
  6. Rabies: Rabies vaccination is of two types: a) pre-exposure and b) post-exposure. Pre-exposure vaccination is a course of 3 injections over a period of one month. If bitten by a suspect animal, one will need to have two boosters to prevent rabies developing. If there is no pre-exposure, one will need a full course of rabies vaccination that includes 5 injections over a period of one month. One might also need an immediate injection of rabies antibodies that is known to be expensive and often not readily available.

    It is recommended to choose pre-exposure rabies vaccination when travelling for more than 3 months, or if handling animals. It is suggestible for children also, as they are at higher risk of being bitten.

  7. Tuberculosis: This infection is wide spread in Latin America. However, poses less risk to travellers. In most cases one must have been immunized against this disease as a child. If one is not, they can avoid, unless they travel to most parts of Asia over three months.
  8. Typhoid: This vaccine is important for individuals who plan to travel to Africa, Latin America, the Indian sub-continent, the Pacific, and most parts of Asia (except Japan), for more than a week. The oral vaccine sometimes can cause the stomach upset. However, the injectable vaccine causes very few effects.
  9. Yellow Fever: Regarding the immunization of Yellow Fever, one should know two important points.
    • Proof of immunization against yellow fever is a statutory requirement to enter African and most Latin American countries, especially if one is coming from a yellow-fever infected country in Africa or South America.
    • One mandatorily needs to immunize himself/herself of the disease irrespective of the need for certificate as an entry prerequisite. This is mainly if the travel is planned to visit rural areas of infected countries. Even though the fever does not exist in all parts of Africa and Latin America, the mosquitoes have the capability to do so. This means that there is an increased chance of a traveller carrying the disease from infected area, resulting in the increased chance of disease transmission in a non-infected area.

When to vaccinate?

It is suggestible to take the first step by visiting a doctor or local health centre and discuss information and treatment options. Ideally, one needs to make the first appointment for immunization and other travel health advice about six to eight weeks before travel.

This is mainly because one must wait nearly for a week or two after a booster or the last vaccine dose, thus being fully protected. There are chances where some vaccine courses need to be given over several weeks.

If one has had a complete course of immunizations before, booster injections may only be needed. This will help reduce the last-minute hurry.

Are there special considerations for immunizations?

There are many cases where immunizations do not suit special people. Individuals could either be allergic or might not have strong immunity to take the vaccine (immunocompromised individuals).  There are cases where pregnant women are not allowed to take some vaccines as it could affect their and the unborn’s health.

It is best to seek consultation from doctor or travel health centres, before considering any vaccine.

Are there any side effects of immunizations?

Immunizations can possibly cause some side effects like some medications. More than being dangerous, the side effects can be considered as unpleasant experiences. There are very rare cases of serious allergic reactions. Common side effects include soreness and fever. Also, a point to note is that, there is no evidence that vaccines can damage immune system.

These basic steps can help you plan your travel at ease. Also, they are likely to protect you in the long run. It is recommended to always check with the doctor or travel health centre for help regarding immunization.

About the author

HealthSignz

We are a team of professionals with a significant level of expertise spanning multiple disciplines for over four decades. Identifying health and wellness as the primary factors that drive liveliness in individuals, lead to the integration of our knowledge with our common values – the result is HealthSignz (HS). Driven by passion to contribute to the advancement of the happiness quotient and well being of communities as a whole, we are here to touch as many lives as possible by enriching them with HS.