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Travel Vaccinations: Everything you need to know about vaccines for travel
An important part of the planning process for overseas travel is to check what preventative health measures you should take, and what travel vaccinations are required. The World Health Organisation recommends that all travellers be up-to-date with routine vaccinations1.
In some parts of the world, there is a significant risk of contracting serious infectious diseases that can have long term consequences for your health. Some countries may also require proof of immunisation against specific diseases as part of their conditions of entry.
It could be worth a trip to your GP or a specialist travel vaccination clinic to get everything sorted before you board an airplane bound overseas.
What vaccines should you consider before you travel?
Determining which travel vaccinations you need is based on your intended destinations – there is no standard immunisation schedule that will suit all travellers2. Consult your doctor or see a travel health clinic six to 12 weeks before leaving Australia.
Your doctor will be able to advise what travel immunisations you should consider based on:
- Your age
- Pregnancy or planned pregnancy
- Underlying medical conditions
- Vaccination history
- Where you are travelling to, both the country and whether you are staying in urban or rural areas (including any seasonal considerations)
Ensuring you visit your doctor well ahead of your trip is important, as some vaccines require multiple doses and time for your body to develop full immunity.
Here’s a list of diseases that may require a vaccination
Some diseases that you may require vaccinations for include3:
- Hepatitis A: a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water
- Hepatitis B: usually spread through exposure to infected blood and other bodily fluids
- Cholera: spread through contaminated water and food, causing severe diarrhoea and dehydration
- Typhoid: spread through contaminated food or water, causing diarrhoea and other symptoms
- Yellow fever: a mosquito-borne disease that causes fever, yellowing of the skin and organs like the liver and kidneys to not work properly
- Tuberculosis (TB): an infectious disease that damages the lungs and is spread when a person with active TB coughs, sneezes, shouts, speaks or sings, and other people nearby breathe in the bacteria
- Meningococcal disease: spread by close contact with an infected person
- Japanese encephalitis: spread by mosquitoes throughout Asia and the Torres Strait region of Australia
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
- Influenza (flu)
- Tetanus: caused when the Clostridium tetani bacteria enters the bloodstream and attacks the nervous system
- Rabies: spread through a bite, scratch or lick on an open wound from an infected animal such as dogs, monkeys, and occasionally other animals
It’s important to see your doctor before you travel, because even if you’ve been vaccinated in the past, your immunity could be reduced and you might need a booster. In addition, some diseases like dengue fever can’t be immunised against, but your doctor can give you advice on how to avoid them4.
How much do travel vaccines cost?
The cost of travel vaccines depends on what you need. Some vaccines are covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, but others aren’t. Your doctor can advise you on the costs and why the vaccination is recommended. Some vaccines may be claimable under ‘extras’ cover if you have private health insurance.
Where can you get travel vaccines?
If you have a regular GP, that is usually a good place to start with discussions about your travel vaccination needs. However, sometimes your GP won’t have all the vaccines at their practice, and you may need to fill a prescription at the chemist and make another appointment with your doctor.
The other alternative is to make an appointment at a specialist travel health clinic. These clinics are typically up-to-date on all the information about best practice in travel vaccinations for a range of destinations, plus they usually have a supply of the vaccines on-site. This can mean that you don’t need to make multiple trips, unless you require more than one dose to develop full immunity.
What if you do get sick overseas?
Despite getting travel vaccines, you still might get sick overseas. In some instances, vaccines don’t completely protect you from illness, or in the case of things like malaria, you might forget to take a dose and not have full protection. And of course, there’s a whole host of illnesses you can get that aren’t covered by vaccines. That’s why smartraveller.gov.au says travel insurance is essential for an overseas trip5.
Travel insurance will give you peace of mind for items covered on the policy while travelling – which could be for a disease that you’ve been immunised for or just bad luck. Depending on the level of cover you select, it can also provide protection for:
- Accidents and injuries
- Cancellations and expenses incurred due to delays
- Loss or theft of personal belongings and valuables
Prior to making a decision on a travel insurance product, ensure you review the Product Disclosure Statement which explains features and limitations of the cover.
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