Travel vaccines – what’s the ‘point’?
Categories: Travel, vaccination, holiday
Who doesn’t love that time of year when you can jet off and escape somewhere with the family? I know I do. However, I was shocked to find that people often spend time planning their hotel, flights, sightseeing and even making meal reservations, but forget the most important thing – to protect themselves against preventable disease.
Why get travel vaccinations?
We are very fortunate to be living in Australia, where the spread of many infectious diseases has been controlled. Unfortunately this isn’t the case worldwide. When we travel we risk exposure to these diseases as well as diseases that don’t occur in Australia. Even in safe destinations, disease outbreaks do occur.
Additionally, some countries may require you to be vaccinated against particular diseases, and may deny you entry at the border if you haven’t done so.
While everyone should look into vaccination before travelling, particular groups are at higher risk of travel related diseases – such as pregnant women, babies and young children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines work by exposing our bodies to small, safe, inactive doses of bacteria or virus that can cause disease. In response, our white blood cells activate and begin to make antibodies. These antibodies remain in our immune system, and are able to respond immediately if exposed to the active disease in the future. In other words, the vaccine tricks our body into thinking it is under assault, and the immune system responds by making a weapon which is on standby for future infection. The reason why there isn’t a ‘one vaccine fix all’ solution, is that the antibodies created by the body are specific to each particular disease. Further, some diseases, such as influenza (the flu), change enough to make existing antibodies ineffective. This is why we need flu shots every year.
Which vaccination will I need?
There isn’t one straight forward answer to this. It depends on your destination, previous vaccinations, the time since your last vaccinations, your age and health.
For travel to areas with high risk of specific infections, immunisation may be required for diseases including:
- Hepatitis A
- Japanese encephalitis
- Meningococcal C
- Tick-borne encephalitis
- Typhoid fever
- Yellow fever
When should I start the process?
You should visit your doctor 6-8 weeks before departure. This is for two reasons:
(1) your immune system needs time to respond to a vaccination;
(2) some vaccines require more than one injection
If you have any further queries or will be travelling soon and haven’t received personal travel health advice, we highly recommend that you book yourself and your family in for a travel consultation. The independent GPs who consult at HealthMint offer travel immunisation and consultations in a beautiful and relaxing architecturally designed clinic.
P.S. We also highly recommend that you: