So, you've got your flights, you've booked your accommodation, now all that's left to do is get yourself protected. When travelling abroad, it's always a good idea to get up to speed with which travel vaccinations you might need, when to get them and how much they cost. Here, we've got the lowdown on the jabs that will keep you healthy on holiday.
Why do you need travel vaccinations?
Many diseases that have been wiped out in the UK are still prevalent in other countries. Getting travel vaccinations stops you becoming seriously ill and spreading a disease further, or bringing it back home.
Which vaccinations do you need for the country you’re visiting?
The vaccinations you might need for a trip depend entirely on which countries you’re visiting. The NHS travel advice website, Fit for Travel, contains detailed information on which vaccinations you will need for each country. Search by continent for general vaccination information, then check the requirements for the country you’re travelling to.
- Australasia and the Pacific
- Central America
- Europe and Russia
- Middle East
- North America
- South America
Where can I get my vaccinations?
All of the vaccinations you might need are available from the NHS. You’ll have probably been vaccinated against the likes of Tuberculosis and Polio while you were at school, but speak to your GP or practice nurse to check which ones you’ve already had. Alternatively you can go to a private clinic or travel centre. High street chemist Superdrug offers all the vaccinations you might need. STA Travel also has a number of clinics across the country.Some, such as Trailfinders Travel Clinic(http://www.trailfinders.com/travel-clinic) offer a discount if you’re getting vaccinations for a trip that you booked through that company. You can also try the Hospital for Tropical Diseases which offers assistance to people with people with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes and allergies.
How much will it cost?
A number of vaccinations and boosters are available free on the NHS – for the time being, although this to due to be reviewed next month. So don’t worry about spending your travel money on these:
- Combined Diphtheria, Polio and Tetanus
- Hepatitis A (including when combined with Typhoid or Hepatitis B)
But you’ll probably have to pay a fee for the NHS to give you:
- Hepatitis B (when not combined with hepatitis A)
- Japanese encephalitis
- Tick-borne Encephalitis
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Yellow Fever
Vaccinations can be expensive as you have to pay for each dose, so make sure you budget for these additional costs. If you use the NHS then you could pay up to £50* per dose of each vaccine. For example, you need three doses of a rabies vaccination, so that could mean your trip will cost you an extra £150. If you use a private clinic or travel centre then you will have to pay for all of your vaccinations. These could cost between £30-£99 per dose, depending on the vaccination. Be aware that some private clinics may charge an initial consultation fee, which could be anywhere between £10–20.
When do you get them?
It’s best to look into the dosage and cost of your travel vaccinations well in advance of travelling, and perhaps even before you book if you know you’re on a strict budget. The NHS recommends that you seek advice about travel vaccinations at least eight weeks before you’re due to go as some vaccines, such as Rabies and Hepatitis B, require multiple doses spread over a number of weeks to ensure you’re fully protected.
How do I know if I need vaccinations?
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether you need travel vaccinations or not. If you’re only travelling in Northern and Central Europe, North America or Australia, chances are you’re unlikely to need any, as most dangerous diseases aren’t prevalent in these areas. But you will need vaccinations if you’re travelling to a place that poses a high risk of you catching the disease. You also need to consider:
- Which countries you’re visiting and what time of the year you’re travelling. Certain weather conditions, such as rain or heat, can increase the spread of diseases.
- Where you’re staying. Are you camping, staying in a hostel or a backpacking? You’re more likely to be at risk from disease in rural rather than urban areas, so look into the kind of accommodation you might be in.
- How long you’ll be in that area. Think about how long you might potentially be exposed to certain diseases.
- How healthy you are/Your medical history. Do you catch infections easily? If your immune system isn’t as strong as other people’s you might be more at risk of catching diseases. Your age and health are important factors in deciding whether you need vaccinations.
- What activities you’ll be doing during your stay. If you’re trekking, walking or working in rural areas you could be at more risk of being exposed to disease. If you’re working as a medic or with animals or people, then that also increases the risk of coming into contact with diseases.
How long do they last?
This varies from vaccine to vaccine. Most last for at least a year, many for up to 10 years and some for life.
Are travel vaccinations covered by insurance?
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover vaccinations, so make sure you check this with your insurance provider if you find you need vaccinations for the country you’re travelling to. Your insurance policy won’t pay out if you catch a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccination. In some cases it could invalidate your policy, so it’s your responsibility to make sure your jabs are up to date.
Are they compulsory?
While travel vaccinations aren’t compulsory, it’s important to get them to stop you becoming seriously ill on your trip. Some countries require you to have an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis before they’ll allow you to travel there. This is often the case for the Yellow Fever vaccine, so check the requirements for each country before you travel.
Why are they so expensive?
The price of a vaccinations depend on need, availability and how much it costs to manufacture and distribute them. The most affordable vaccinations are those which are more readily available.
Are they safe during pregnancy?
While the NHS says that it’s unlikely a vaccine given while pregnant or breastfeeding will cause problems for the baby, it’s best to speak to your GP before booking any vaccinations.
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*Published March 2017. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.