While preparing for a worldwide trip, or even a vacation to a foreign country, health should always be a top priority. Many countries, specifically on levels 1 and 2 of the developing world, have outbreaks we don’t frequently see here in the U.S. Also, one needs to consider many of the illnesses brought on by mosquitos and lack of clean water abroad. Lastly, some vaccinations such as Yellow Fever are a customs requirement for gaining entry into some countries. In cases like these, a traveler will need to present a certification of Yellow Fever vaccination.
Below I have outlined 5 important considerations for travel vaccinations:
- If you already know your destinations, use the CDC website to see if specific vaccines are required or recommended to enter that country. This link brings you straight there, so you can select your desired country from a dropdown and learn what vaccines are recommended. In general, the CDC recommends Hepatitis A/B, MMR, and polio for all travelers. In the U.S., these vaccines are generally routinely given to infants, so you will probably already be vaccinated against them.
- Once you have the list of vaccinations you need, always double-check if your health insurance will cover them. These things get expensive! Below I have added a list of prices that I have found for these. These prices can vary by provider, but I found that there was not much variance in price ranges. Below are the average prices I found in Nashville, TN, where I am from. Note: On top of these, your physician may charge a “travel consultation” fee.
- Determine where these shots are available. Most of them you can get through your primary care physician, but some don’t have Yellow Fever or Japanese Encephalitis on hand. In these cases, check for a local travel clinic in your area that may have these shots available. All shots will be recorded in a Yellow Book for proof of vaccination. As of this writing (December 2019), Yellow Fever currently has a shortage in the U.S. due to an FDA approved manufacturer changing facilities. The vaccine is available through a European manufacturer but is limited in import quantities. Check with your local doctor about availability in your area.
- Some viruses do not have any vaccinations currently available. The Zika virus is one of these. Malaria, on the other hand, is a prescription one needs to take while in the country where the virus is active.
- Make sure you give yourself ample time to get the vaccines before your departure date. It can be difficult to get appointments, and also some of these vaccines take more than a single visit to the doctor. For example, rabies is 3 shots administered over 3 weeks. Lastly, some of these shots take several weeks to take effect, so you want to ensure they have kicked in before landing at your destination.
Because I am traveling to so many different places, I needed 9 different vaccinations (spread across 12 shots and 4 oral capsules) and Malaria pills. I am pretty fortunate that my employer’s health insurance coverage was excellent and covered all travel vaccinations. The only one they didn’t cover is Yellow Fever. Due to the shortage mentioned above, I was forced to go to an out-of-network provider.
I don’t fear needles, but getting 6 stuck in you at once is no fun – due to the effects of your immune system fighting off all the vaccinations. Overall, I didn’t have any lingering side effects except mild headaches for a day or two after getting the shots.