Working out which vaccinations you need for your trip around the world can be quite tricky. There are just so many countries, so many bugs, and so many vaccinations to consider. This post will help you to answer some of the questions you might have when thinking about getting protection against nasty travel bugs. If you have any questions that we haven’t answered, please comment below and we’ll update this post.
Note: there is so much to consider when finding which vaccinations that you need that we have written a comprehensive guide about each sickness and information about preventative measures.
‘I don’t even know where to start!’
Assuming you are a travel novice, you will not have had many vaccinations since high school. Your first move is to contact your GP to get a record of the vaccinations that you have received up to now. Depending on the locality (urban/rural) of your registered GP, they will be able to tell you in a short appointment which vaccinations you need. If your GP does not offer a travel clinic, like mine, then you will need to visit a private clinic.
As I live in the arse-end of nowhere, I had to have my consultation at a local Boots store, but Katherine was able to go to her doctor at university. Boots offer a free consultation and I understand that some Superdrug stores do too. Other private clinics, such as MASTA, do operate consultation fees of about £20 each, so bear this in mind whilst choosing the right option for you.
It is helpful to know at least which countries you are visiting before your consultation as this will help identify which vaccinations you require. Some countries, like Ghana, require you to have a Yellow Fever vaccination and an accompanying certificate before you can enter the country; so make sure you are aware of these kinds of caveats.
‘okay, what next?’
Once you’ve had your consultation, you should be more knowledgeable about the jabs that you’re going to need. You now need to work out which ones you can get on the NHS (not many) and which ones you will have to pay for. You can speak to your nurse or a private consultant about this, but be wary that the consultant is working for a private practice and is likely to ‘strongly advise’ you into paying for jabs privately when you are entitled to them free on the NHS.
DO I really need to bother?
It really is down to your individual preference and your confidence in your immune system. I would personally never travel to an at-risk country without having the appropriate vaccinations. Why would you want to risk ruining the trip you’ve been working hard to save for all year because you stepped on a concealed nail and didn’t get a tetanus shot?
What am I susceptible to?
As well as various local diseases which do not yet have vaccinations, such as Ebola and Zika – why you would travel to Ebola-stricken areas I do not know – travellers are susceptible to a plethora of bugs. In our comprehensive guide to gross travel bugs we have listed in detail the most common travel sicknesses and how you can protect yourself against them. The most common bugs for which vaccinations exist are: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio, Cholera, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Japanese Encephalitis, Tick-borne Encephalitis, Rabies, and Yellow Fever. Some more minor illnesses like traveller’s diarrhoea are fairly easily treatable and if you maintain good hygiene and sanitation, you should be okay.
The major concerns are Malaria and Dengue Fever. These are transmitted by mosquitoes and do not have vaccinations. Unless you are in the lucky 10% of the human race whose blood is not mosquito food, then you will inevitably be bitten by the pests at some point. Using DEET-infused spray will help keep them off you, but if one carrying Malaria or Dengue bites you and you are not taking anti-Malarials, you are going to be in some trouble.
It is up to you to weigh up the pros and cons of getting jabs. If you’re only going on a short trip to a country with a low risk of a particular disease, you might decide that the costs of vaccines outweigh the risk of needing them.
Do you have a different experience with getting vaccinations for your trips?