Tips on Getting Your Travel Vaccinations

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Need Travel Vaccinations? Check Out These Helpful Tips:

For a trip to Namibia in Africa, we recently got vaccinations for Hepatitas A, Hepatitas B and Typhoid, as well as prescriptions for pills to protect against malaria. When we first started doing vaccination research, we discovered the Travel Clinics of America website (www.travelclinicsofamerica.com), which lists doctors that cater to travelers. We searched for a doctor in our hometown and found the Advanced Life Clinic, which is run by Dr. Hayley Degraaff and clinic administrator Chris Hutton. They were very helpful in identifying the shots we needed, and they provided extra information on traveling safely in Namibia. We came away from the experience with a few bits of advice that might help you if you’re planning a trip to a country that requires you to get shots.

1. Start the process of getting shots early

We began to investigate shots we might need months in advance, and Dr. Degraaff encourages others to do the same. Some vaccinations need to be taken months in advance of departure, and some medicines such as anti-malaria pills must be taken a week before you enter countries where you might be exposed.

Keep in mind that some vaccines might not be widely available immediately. For example, the typhoid vaccine in the form of a shot was not available when we first called the clinic, however it was available in pill form. “There are sometimes nationwide backlogs and shortages,” says Dr. Degraaff. “There’s not a lot of profit margin in vaccines, so few companies make them. Sometimes, they don’t properly judge the demand for the vaccines, and sometimes a whole batch will have to be destroyed due to manufacturing quality control issues.” Also, a vaccine might not be available because supplies have been sent to address a humanitarian crisis.

2. Research medical concerns for the country you’re visiting

Be aware than each country has its own vaccination requirements, and the requirements can vary depending on your country of origin. For example, if you begin your journey in a country where yellow fever is a problem, you must have a yellow fever vaccination to enter Namibia. Since we were traveling from the United States, we weren’t required to get the yellow fever vaccine.

Also, keep in mind that vaccination requirements can change, and you can get the latest information by visiting the website for the Centers For Disease Control (www.cdc.gov). You can seek advice from a family physician, but your doctors don’t always have the answers if they rarely deal with travel vaccines. When we called our family physician to see what was needed for Namibia, the receptionist simply told us to check the CDC website. While searching for information online, we found the website for Adventure Travel Clinics of America, and through that site we found the Advanced Life Clinic.

3.  Visit a clinic that specializes in travel vaccines

If it’s possible, visit a clinic that is very familiar with travel vaccinations. While our family doctor provided little info, the folks at The Advanced Clinics were eager and willing to help us research the necessary vaccines, and they were generally knowledgeable about travel in Africa.

If you need a more rare vaccine, it’s especially helpful to seek out a clinic that caters to travelers. “Japanese Encephalitis is about $300, so most family physicians won’t have it,” says Degraaff. While vaccines can be expensive, they also have expiration dates, so a doctor probably won’t keep it on-hand if it’s not likely to be needed in the near future. Your family doctor can always order the vaccine, but he or she will need the advanced notice and time to obtain it.

She also points out that doctors that are part of Adventure Travel Clinics of America can sometimes get vaccines at lower prices through group buying.

We also appreciated that The Advanced Clinics printed out all of the CDC information for us and walked us through all the things we needed to consider, such as concerns over safe drinking water and other safety issues.

4. Build vaccinations into your travel budget

Be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on travel vaccinations. “Sometimes, it can cost $400 to $600, and people are often surprised that insurance companies don’t cover it,” says Degraaff. For Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines, we paid about $320, plus about $100 for the doctor’s visit. We paid an extra $30 to $60 for anti-malaria medication and Cipro (for diarrhea), with insurance picking up some of the cost for those prescription medications.

More vaccine and medication tips…

* A doctor will provide you with a yellow card that documents your vaccines. Keep your vaccination card with you as you travel.

* Ask your doctor about a prescription for Ciprofloxacin, which is very effective in treating diarrhea.

* Leave medication in the prescription bottle, or have a copy of your prescription with you, says Chris Hutton, head of administration for The Advanced Clinics. “Otherwise, you might look fishy while going through airport security,” he says. “If you travel with needles for diabetes, you really need to have a prescription on hand, so there’s no suspicion that you’re using them for illegal drugs.”

 

Veteran journalists Wendy Geister and Marcus Woolf launched The Adventure Post to share their passion for travel and outdoor adventure. They chronicle their journeys to inspire others to explore and provide insider tips that steer people toward richer travel experiences. The Adventure Post also includes contributions from other experienced travelers, as well as detailed gear reviews and reports on trends in outdoor recreation and adventure travel.