Being prepared in the areas of health and safety is a good recommendation for any traveler. We recommend the main thing a traveler should do when planning to travel abroad, especially to a third world country, is check their own government’s recommendations for vaccinations and immunization. Also, the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a good, easy-to-navigate online resource.
The CDC categorizes vaccinations into three categories: routine, recommended, and required. What does this mean though? I’ll summarize each of these categories as described by the CDC. It is also important to note that required shots are around to protect the requiring country from the spread of diseases. Requirements were never meant to protect you the traveler. Therefore, it is your responsibilty to protect yourself with the right immunization choices.
Here’s the quick vaccination breakdown:
Routine Vaccinations: These vaccines are necessary for protection from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world even though they rarely occur in the more developed countries. Look at the following schedules to find out what is considered routine in the United States. Please note that the U.S. routine schedule for childhood immunizations may need to be adjusted if a child is traveling.
Recommended Vaccinations: These vaccines are recommended to protect travelers from illnesses present in other parts of the world and to prevent the importation of infectious diseases across international borders. Which vaccinations you need depends on a number of factors, including your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year you will be traveling, your age, your health status, and previous immunizations.
Required Vaccinations: The only vaccine required at this time by International Health Regulations is the yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Meningococcal vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the Hajj.
Once you visit the CDC’s site to familiarize yourself with what is currently recommended for your destination, the next step is to call your doctor or a travel clinic to schedule an appointment. When making the appointment, explain what it is for to ensure that you don’t visit too soon or too late for the shots. Many vaccines need time in your body to take effect and some must be given in a series over days or weeks. Ideally, if you need any vaccines, you’ll get them four to six weeks before your trip (if you’re travelling last minute, you should still consult with your doctor or one of the travel clinics). Be sure to mention if you have an immune system deficiency, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and/or if you are travelling with infants or children. All of these factors can effect immunization/vaccination decisions.
Travel clinics are a great alternative to visiting your regular doctor. You can find a list of travel clinics around the world through the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM). These clinics offer pre-travel vaccination and consultation and post-travel medical consultation. All must pass a professional exam and possess the ISTM Certificate in Travel Health. Another resource for finding travel health specialist is the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. They also have a worldwide member directory that lists clinical consultants for travel health.
Of course, health precautions should be taken when traveling even if you do get vaccinated for everything under the sun. Check out this destinations list for more health safety tips for specific locations throughout the world.
IMAGE VIA: mksphotos on flickr