Travel Vaccinations: Do I Need Them For International Backpacking?

One of the things that can really blind side a person when preparing for a trip is the need to get vaccinated.   It is blind siding for a multitude of reasons but some of the most frequent are the cost,  which can be a shocker, and the amount of time that it requires to receive some certain types of vaccinations.  These two factors often leave a person wondering if it is in fact really necessary to receive these vaccinations?  It won’t happen to me….right?  What are the chances anyway?

Vaccinations can be very tricky and some countries require mandatory ones for entry and exit-the most common being that of the Yellow Fever Vaccine.

Much like anything else, every part of the world seems to have their own brew of deadly diseases or viruses that are circumventing that a person should in fact take proper precaution against.  The chances of contracting something could still be slim to none, but their is that chance that lightning could strike.  And this is where the expertise of a Travel Doctor comes into play for they are currently up to speed with what deadly strains of who knows what is floating around the universe.  Unlike a General Practitioner, a Travel Doctor specializes in this field and should be the first step for anyone that is going out of the country for an extended amount of time.  This appointment should be made at least six months to a year out in advance from when you decide to leave to be safe.  Some shots require multiple doses that have to be given months apart.

When I first decided to travel extensively in 2009, I had no idea exactly where I was planning to go and that is why I told my travel physician to give me pretty much everything that could help protect against as many things possible for I knew I could easily be going  to Africa one minute, Central America the next, and you get the idea.  It is in fact quite scary to think about how serious of issues this could be if in fact you were to contract something in a foreign place.  The science is there to help us, although most of the time our own ignorance might seem to get the better of us.   To give everyone an idea of just exactly what I received I am going to share all the vaccinations and prescriptions  for my departure to foreign lands.  They are as follows:

  • Flu Vaccination
  • Hapatitis A vaccine
  • Japanese Encephalitis vaccine
  • Polio virus vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine
  • Tdap for tetanus vaccine
  • Yellow Fever vaccine
  • Typhoid
  • 365 days worth of Doxycycline for malaria
  • Ciproflaxacin for travelers diarrhea
  • Zithromax for acute travelers diarrhea in Asia
  • Diamox for Altitude sickness

As you can probably guess, all these vaccines ran around a total of one thousand dollars.  A lot of times it is hard to claim then on your general insurance because they are elective vaccinations, so always make sure to check with your own insurance company before you decide to get vaccinated.   For the most part a lot of these vaccinations are merely recommended, they are not mandatory.  However, some countries require certain vaccinations before entry so make sure to do your research.  If in fact you are traveling well outside the country for an extended amount of time and feel that getting vaccinated is worth the investment, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make an appointment with a Travel Physician at least six months prior to when you want to depart to make sure that you have an adequate amount of time to prepare for the vaccines needed and also to know how much they cost to pay for them.  Some vaccines require three shots a few months apart.
  • Check your own insurance to see if some of these vaccines can be covered under your existing plan to help save you some money.
  • Know exactly where you are going and what you plan on doing.  The more exact info you can tell your physician, the more exact preventative treatment they can give you and you might not need certain vaccines which can save you a lot of money in the long run.  Most serious diseases are found in rural areas, so if you are planning on volunteering in off the beaten track places, keep this in mind.
  • Ask to be prescribed generic forms of all the medications.  Some non generics can cost hundreds of dollars more and when you travel, every penny counts.

I am not a doctor and I am not prescribing medical advice by any means.  All I am doing is sharing my experience so that you can better prepare yourself for extended travels around the world.  I had one friend who got hepatitis B and was in the hospital for about two weeks which can be very serious.  The chances of getting bit by that rabid dog are slim to none, but it really only takes one time, and if you do get bit, a couple of hundred dollars to prevent your brain from rotting could be worth it.  Try not to be bothered with the cost.  I hate paying money to hedge against the fact that the chances of me actually getting an illness are slim to none, but all it takes is that one time.  If you can afford them, then it is never a bad thing to invest in.  But most of them are entirely up to you, so do your research and make educated decisions.

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