One of the most neglected yet important things to consider before you travel is the risk of contracting disease. Depending on your intended destination, you could be at increased risk of catching several infections, many that you may not have immunity against. While the risk is always higher in developing countries, there is a long list of diseases common in even the developed world that you may not have ever heard of. So it is extremely important to understand what you may be exposing yourself to and take the required precautions well in advance.
Falling ill can not only affect the purpose of your trip, getting treatment abroad can also end up adding needless expense to the cost of your trip not to mention the discomfort. Even worse is that many of these diseases can be fatal. The medical care in many locations is also not as advanced as what you might be accustomed to. Therefore, it is best to ensure that your body has sufficient immunity and for that it is recommended that you share your travel plans with your doctor. While some vaccinations are administered as late as a week before departure to ensure maximum effectiveness, most should be taken well in advance so that the body has sufficient time to build immunity and recover from the side effects.
How Does A Vaccination Work?
A vaccine is basically a weakened form of the disease that it is supposed to protect the body against. When administered with these low doses of infection, the body’s immune system is stimulated to produce antibodies against the disease which remain in the body long after it has fought off the infection enhancing our natural defense system. This is also the reason why some vaccines cause low grade fever and discomfort. Instead of getting individual vaccinations for all the diseases, it is best to get combination vaccines which immunize you against more than one disease. The effectiveness of this is not less in any way and offers the convenience of fewer injections.
Is Immunization Compulsory?
There are three kinds of immunizations — Routine, Required and Recommended. The only `required’ or compulsory vaccination is the Yellow Fever Vaccination for travel to Africa and South America. `Routine’ vaccinations are those that are administered as a matter of course, generally during childhood. You just need to ensure that these are up-to-date and no boosters are required especially for those on the recommended list for the country that you are visiting.
While a partial list of recommended vaccines for specific countries is given below, there are many national and international groups that provide more extensive information regarding the same.
Two such sources are the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention for which you can visit https://www.cdc.gov/travel and the World Health Organization at https://www.who.int/ih/preface.html. These will also warn against any outbreaks or epidemics and the necessary precautions to be taken at the time of travel.
Thailand: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Rabies, Japanese B Encephalitis.
Brazil: Yellow Fever, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies, Tuberculosis, Tetanus.
Japan: Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis.
Africa: Malaria (There is no vaccination against this. Pills are available but mostly precautions like mosquito repellent, nets etc are advised).
Caribbean: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, Rabies, Yellow Fever.
Immunizations For Infants
It would be best to consult your pediatrician to see if the baby can travel at all since it is best to have completed all the routine shots. Also she may advise taking the shot as little as a week in advance so that it is effective for the required period.
Proof Of Vaccination At The Time Of Travel
It is necessary to carry a written record of all the vaccinations administered using the `International Certificate of Vaccination’ — It is best to check with your doctor regarding the availability of the same before scheduling an appointment. Not having the necessary certificate could disrupt your travel schedules at the last minute, so be careful.