Any traveler going to Southeast Asia or South America may have asked themselves this question at some point. On one hand, you don’t want to come down with some tropical disease and find your trip over before it began. But on the other, immunizations and prophylactic pills are expensive and may not be covered by your insurance. Your home country may also have rules about what shots you need to have or may have already received as a child.
Where Are You Going?
The standard diseases travelers should be protected against are yellow fever, malaria, Tdap, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, measles-mumps-rubella and varicella. Many of these vaccinations are encouraged or required by countries before children enroll in school. Some need to be updated every few years to retain potency. Here are a few of the suggested immunizations by region, but you can get up-to-date information for each country from the Center for Disease Control website.
- Africa: yellow fever, hepatitis A, polio, typhoid
- South America: yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid
- Southeast Asia: rabies, Japanese encephalitis
- Middle East: polio, hepatitis A, typhoid
They keep you from getting sick. This seems like a no-brainer, but think about it. Getting sick while traveling can completely ruin your trip, and that’s the best-case scenario. Sometimes these diseases can land you in the hospital, evacuated home, or even dead. While the odds are slim, you’d better not risk it. This is really the only pro necessary, but… another perk of being vaccinated is that you won’t bring anything else home that could infect loved ones.
They’re not cheap. At around $90 per shot, one trip can cost you about $300 just in shots before you’ve even left the country. Your insurance provider may cover it, but they may not.
*However, many vaccinations are good for years, so you can think of the cost as an investment in many travels to come.
Be careful if you’re prone to side effects. Malaria pills and shots, which come in different forms, can affect people in different ways, but some can cause sensitivity to light, headaches, dizziness and blurred vision, among other things. Women who are pregnant should seek alternatives to some forms, as should those with a history of mental illness. You should discuss any pre-existing conditions with your travel doctor before they prescribe you an anti-malarial drug.
Needles are scary. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the biggest fan of needles. Watching them go into my skin freaks me out and the moment you can feel them go into the vein hurts. Those with a fear of needles should be prepared for a not-so-fun day at the doctor’s office.
The best way to avoid most of these diseases is through taking everyday precautions. Drink water that you are sure is clean or otherwise use a water purification system. Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer frequently. Use powerful mosquito spray with DEET, as many diseases come from bites. Practice safe sex to prevent the transmission of hepatitis. And if all else fails, you can visit a doctor at your destination.
Where to Get Your Immunizations
You can check with your normal General Practitioner to see what vaccinations he/she can provide, but we recommend seeking out a travel clinic or doctor that specializes in travel prep so you can get the best care. Brooke was able to reach out to her local county health department that just so happened to have a travel clinic with vaccinations at a slighter cheaper rate. In addition, they were able to provide additional information and travel safety advice.
Disclaimer: We at Her Packing List are no medical experts, so you should not take our word as the only truth. But we’ve done our best to present the facts on immunizations. Ultimately, it’s up to you what’s right for your needs and your destination, but we recommend at least speaking with a physician before you leave.