“I’m Going to a Developing Country for Vacation, Do I Really Need Travel Vaccines? I Was There Before and I Was Fine.”
By Natan Schleider, M.D.
July 2nd, 2017
I get the above question quite often from my patients, often days, before they are leaving for Thailand, India, South America, Africa..my patients, are world travelers.
Usually, the question is followed by a statement like: “I only drink bottled water and will only be in the jungle for a few days.”
The answer to the question is a definitive YES. Unless of course, you like having Typhoid’s bloody diarrhea, Yellow Fever, or Malaria. Sure they may kill you but it will make a hell of a cocktail story 6-12 weeks after your hospitalization. Not to mention you may even get a few people saying: ‘You simply must share your weight loss secrets! You must have dropped 100 pounds, darling!”
The Center of Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) has very specific guidelines in the Traveler’s Health section, just chose your destination and figure out what vaccines you need and what medicines you may need (for example Malaria prevention, antibiotics, sunblock, mosquito nets) (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/)
And I have followed them all! I have literally had every vaccine out there, including Rabies! That’s right! I was bitten by a dog when I was in medical school in Israel and had to have four intramuscular shots (they are not given into the stomach, that is a myth, they are given into the shoulder like a flu shot) weekly for 4 consecutive weeks.
One issue is Travel Vaccines are not covered by most health insurance plans and are not cheap. BUT, they are a lot less expensive than the cost of a private jet flying you to a reputable hospital, that is for sure.
Remember to get the vaccines at least 10 to 14 days BEFORE you leave for your trip to allow your body to build protective antibodies.
You may need a Yellow Vaccine Card if you are getting the Yellow Fever Vaccine (this is almost only needed if you are going to certain regions in Africa). I try to give all my patients this card and email my patients a PDF copy in case they lose the card. Ask you Travel Vaccine Doctor for a Yellow Vaccine card even if you are not getting the Yellow Fever Vaccine. Why? It fits nicely in your passport and is a great way to keep track of adult vaccines.
Look, you just booked a ticket to fly hundreds if not thousands of miles for the trip of a lifetime and I am guessing you spent decent money for the trip.
You may be spending most of your time on a resort. But even those ice cubes in the resort’s five-star cocktails can carry viruses and bacteria so do yourself a favor and invest some time in your health and vaccinate.
The vaccines will confer immunity for anywhere from two to ten years so think of them as an investment into your health.