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Should I… Get Travel Immunizations?

travel immunizations: pros and cons

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

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Alternatives

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.

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Comments

  1. Sarah says

    I’m pretty sure that $90 dollar investment per shot will be worth it to avoid a lifetime of liver scarring (hepatitis) or possible paralyzation (polio) or possibly getting rabies!

  2. hobojojo says

    One thing this article missed is making sure your boosters of tetanus and all the other childhood vaccines we had are up to date. Most people don’t realise these all expire before you are an adult. Now living at home this is not an issue, but when travelling not having these boosters may turn into an issue.

    Also, many countries need you to have yellow fever certificate to enter the country.

    I’d rather spend the $90 on an inoculation, than the thousands it will costs in hospital bills, overseas or domestically for preventable illness I got.

    Inoculations, should be factored into the cost of travel and should be taken. For me getting inoculations is not easy, I have an egg allergy and most vaccines are egg based, but I’d rather the hassle of sitting in a hospital for 12 hours being watched after getting an injection than getting ill overseas. Yes I can say, I don’t know anyone who got polio, yellow fever or rabies, but I do know of a few people who got malaria overseas. The one who was vaccinated recovered quickly, the one who was not took years to recover.

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