Some travel vaccinations can provide peace of mind while jet setting around the world, while others like the Yellow Fever Vaccine, are required to enter and leave certain countries. The level of vaccine-preventable diseases vary depending on the country, as demonstrated in the World Health Organisation (WHO) website that contains a summary of immunisation schedules by region and country.
Planning travel vaccinations with the itinerary
Consideration of vaccinations will need happen well in advance. Vaccines should be given at least six to eight week before departure. Receiving treatment early by your doctor or health service, can minimise the risk of taking the side effects of the vaccine with you on holidays. Some immunisations require a bit more time, as they may need to be spaced out and administered as multiple doses, while others may need some time for immunisation to take effect. This level of planning also allows extra time should a certificate be required for entrance to country on the travel itinerary.
Balancing health risks with travel plans
Where you go, what you plan to do, your own health history and how much you care about your health are all things worth considering when looking at the risks of an overseas trip. For example travelling to a city and staying in a large hotel, where days are spent lounging in a deck chair by the pool, may be be less of a risk to someone’s health. Alternatively trekking to a rural area, swimming in the local river and eating from street stalls may require a bit more planning to stay healthy. Either way age, allergies, medication and medical conditions should be factored into the feasibility of travel plans.
Compulsory vs recommended travel vaccinations
Depending on the requirements of the country being entered and the potential risks, the list of travel vaccinations required will vary. Even if there are no compulsory travel immunisations required to enter a country, there may be some that are highly recommended by your GP.
It is important to keep in mind, that those travel vaccinations that are compulsory for travellers to enter and leave a country, are there to protect the locals rather than those visiting.
In an ideal world there would be a vaccine for every disease, however there are many diseases that we have no way of protecting against, or have vaccines that are still under development.
Precautions that compliment travel vaccinations
For diseases not covered by a vaccine, avoidance is the best medicine. Some things will be common sense like where and what you eat, where other precautions will require more investigation.
Malaria for example currently has no commercially available vaccine. Yet, almost three quarters of people traveling to tropical countries don’t take insect repellant with them. Taking precautions to avoid mosquitos will help prevent infection against malaria and other diseases such as dengue and Zika fever.
Other more general advice from your doctor may help, such as following basic hygiene as well as recommended food and water guidelines. Some advice may be more specific, such as not walking barefoot in warm, humid destinations to reduce exposure to hookworm.
Simple points like these, specific to your destination will help you stay healthy and enjoy your travel. Other risk factors may be specific to the time of year, such a the monsoon season, so best to access the most up to date information. Resources are freely available for these purposes, such as the Australian Governments SmartTraveler website. It is also wise to check with the relevant foreign representatives of the county you plan to travel to, so that they may confirm vaccination entry and exit requirements.