Getting jabbed for travel

May 14, 2010

Every time I go to visit my doctor, the first question he usually asks, with a knowing grin, is ‘Where in the world are you off to next?’ So when I told him that I was planning to travel for a year and gave him an overview of my projected itinerary, he thought it was hilarious but wasn’t particularly surprised.

In the month leading up to my trip, and then in the final week, I was a frequent visitor at the surgery to perform my role as a human pin-cushion. Luckily needles don’t bother me, and I wear my little round band-aid on my upper arm with pride after each visit.

I think I had almost every vaccination recommended for travel, apart from Yellow Fever because I’m not travelling to Africa or South America.

Typhoid and Hepatitis A

I’ve now had this vaccine a few times – it lasts between 12 and 24 months, and is essential for anyone planning on travelling in the developing world. Both diseases are passed through contaminated food and drink due to poor personal hygiene – something that is unavoidably encountered in many parts of the world.


The cholera vaccination actually isn’t a shot – it’s a drink that you take twice, seven days apart. Although the full dose can provide protection for up to 3 years, its effectiveness is nowhere near 100%. Even the leaflet that comes with the vaccine admits this.

It was only on the urging of my doctor that I decided to take the vaccine – I’ve heard that it can also possibly protect against e-Coli and traveller’s diarrhea. Since the cost was almost entirely covered by my health insurance, I decided to take it.


Although my doctor had no strong feelings on whether or not I should take the rabies vaccine, especially considering it’s expensive ($100 AUD a pop) and time consuming (3 shots over a month), I’m going to be travelling in remote areas home to unpredictable wildlife (namely: monkeys and dogs) and a bite from a rabid animal can end your trip pretty quickly.

Now I’ve had the vaccine, I have more time to get to a health professional if I do end up with a monkey tangled in my hair or a Tibetan mastiff clamped to my ankle.

Diptheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio

Before I travelled to India and Nepal, I had a booster shot of these vaccinations that I would have had as a child. Polio in particular is strongly recommended for people travelling to Nepal.

Meningitis/Meningococcal C

Most young people in Australia now have this vaccine at some point in high school, but it wasn’t around when I was at school. Apparently meningitis is frequently transmitted in trekking lodges in Nepal, and it’s not a pleasant disease.

The Flu

The last vaccination I had was my yearly flu shot – this year, it includes protection against Swine Flu.

The Cost of Staying Healthy

Getting vaccinated isn’t cheap. Shots made up a considerable portion of my pre-trip budget, totalling more than $500 AUD. Happily, once I claimed back the cost of the vaccinations on my private health insurance, my out of pocket expenses came to just under $200. If you have health insurance, check your policy to see what you can claim.

Planning a trip?

Don’t take my word for it. Before you travel, consult your doctor or travel health specialist and see what the World Health Organisation recommends for travel to your destination.

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