15 Nov A Guide to Vaccinations for Travel
When you’re embarking on long-term travel, you accept that at some point you’re going to get sick on the road. However, while suffering a cold or minor injury is one thing, contracting a serious disease is definitely not on our list of things to do, so we’re making sure we get all the travel vaccination advice we can before we go.
Vaccinations for Travel – what do we already have?
Check out this update post to see how we’ve managed our malaria pills and medical vaccinations since we’ve been travelling.
Since we live in the UK, we’re incredibly lucky to receive free vaccinations throughout our lives, so we’re already covered for some of the diseases we might encounter when travelling. The vaccinations we’ve already had are:
- BCG (for TB)
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Yellow fever – we paid £50 to get this vaccination for a trip to Kenya; it’s not offered as standard or for free in the UK.
What Diseases are we at Risk from when we’re Travelling?
Our existing vaccinations won’t protect us from the whole host of tropical diseases we’ll encounter in the countries on our travel itinerary; here’s what else we need to protect ourselves against:
- Typhoid – is spread through contaminated food and water and causes septicaemia, which can kill.
- Hepatitis A – is also contracted through infected food and water, especially shellfish. Very few people exhibit symptoms when they contract hepatitis A, however, the disease is serious and can cause liver damage and jaundice.
- Cholera – this is spread through contaminated food and most commonly, water. Cholera vaccinations aren’t used in the UK because the risk of contracting the disease is very small; you’d need to ingest a lot of bacteria to contract it. Taking care to drink safe water is the best way to protect against this disease.
- Hepatitis B – is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids; symptoms include fever, joint pains and a rash; severe cases can result in liver damage and cancer.
- Japanese encephalitis – is spread by mosquitoes and you’re most at risk of contracting the disease after the rainy season in many Asian countries. This disease can cause meningitis and muscular paralysis in the worst cases; recovery is usually very slow.
- Rabies – is a fatal and incredibly painful disease which is spread through animal bites and saliva.
- Tick-borne encephalitis – has similar symptoms to meningitis and is spread by ticks or drinking unpasteurised milk from infected animals.
What Travel Vaccinations do I need?
You’ll need different travel vaccinations depending on which countries you’re planning to visit; here are the diseases we may encounter in the places we’re planning to visit, or might decide to go to once we’re on the road:
- Indonesia – typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, cholera
- Philippines – hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, cholera
- Malaysia – rabies, hepatitis B, cholera, Japanese encephalitis
- Thailand – typhoid, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis B, cholera
- Vietnam – rabies, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, cholera
- Cambodia – Japanese encephalitis, rabies, hepatitis B, cholera
- Laos – rabies, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, cholera
- Myanmar – hepatitis B, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, cholera
- Nepal – hepatitis B, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, cholera
- India – hepatitis B, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, cholera
- Japan – Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis B, tick-borne encephalitis
- Korea – typhoid, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies
- China – typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, hepatitis B, cholera, tick-borne encephalitis
NHS Travel Vaccinations
Again, we are very lucky in the UK to receive free travel vaccinations from the British National Health Service (NHS). I dread to think how much all our travel injections would cost if we had to pay for them; still, not everything we need is covered, here’s what we did get:
- Hepatitis A vaccination – we had our first vaccination for hepatitis A before we went to Thailand in 2009, we’ve just had a booster which means we’re protected against this disease for 20 years.
- Hepatitis B vaccination – comes in a course of three injections to provide long-term protection. We’ve had our first hep B vaccination and will have the next one in a few weeks. We’ll need to have the third dose in six months time when we get to Australia.
- Typhoid – we had a typhoid booster injection which protects us for the next three years.
Vaccinations from Travel Clinics
We’ll only be able to get these other recommended travel vaccinations through an independent travel clinic:
- Japanese encephalitis
- Tick-borne encephalitis
Cost of Travel Vaccinations
Travel clinics can be really expensive; we looked around online to find cheap travel vaccinations in London. The best we came up with was First Contact who charge the following prices:
- Rabies vaccinations – cost £20 per shot and you’ll need a course of three shots over a one-month period to give you one year’s protection.
Are we getting it? We’ve heard of some travellers who choose not to get rabies vaccinations, we’ve decided to because the disease is prevalent in many of the countries we’re visiting and we hope to work with animals at some point in our trip. Most importantly, rabies is almost always fatal, so it’s not something we feel like taking a chance on. Even if you get vaccinated against rabies, if you’re bitten by an infected animal you need to get follow-up shots immediately. We’re getting our rabies vaccinations done as close to our departure date as possible to give us the maximum amount of cover.
- Japanese encephalitis – costs £60 per shot and it’s recommended that you get at least two doses over a one month period to give two year cover.
Are we getting it? At the moment we’re not sure whether we’re going to get this vaccination in the UK, mostly because of the expense. Instead, we are looking into getting a Japanese encephalitis vaccination once we get to Indonesia, where it will be a lot cheaper.
- Tick-borne encephalitis – costs £70 per shot; you’ll need to have two separate doses one to three months apart to give one to three years of cover.
Are we getting it? We’ve decided not to get the tick-borne encephalitis vaccination because of the cost. Also, it’s only really a risk in parts of China and Japan and we’re not sure yet whether we’ll be visiting these countries. We can always get the vaccination a lot cheaper in Asia if we do decide to add those countries to our travel itinerary.
Another very serious disease that we’re at risk of contracting while we’re away is malaria. There are a variety of options for protecting against this disease, which I’ve tackled in a separate post on malaria prevention.