The Fun that is Immunizations…How I Tackled the Vaccination Dilemma

If you are planning a RTW trip (Round-the-World), this is probably one of the aspects of research which you look forward to the least.  I know that was definitely the case for myself.  There is so much conflicting information out there, and much of it is up to debate, personal preference, or simply as Dirty Harry famously once said, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question.  Do I feel lucky?  Well, do ya, punk?”  

The first place to start is the CDC website where you should check what is required and/or recommended in the areas you may travel to.  https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list

Read a bit about the diseases and recommendations, and use the information to guide you towards what you believe you may need.  The best piece of advice I can give is to do your homework, and know a bit about the diseases, vaccinations, areas of travel, and how they relate to each other before you walk into a doctor’s office.  

Once you have a rough idea of what you may need, the next step is to track down your immunization history from your doctor.  After obtaining copies of your immunization records, it’s time to schedule a visit to a Travel Clinic in your area.  Travel Clinics have doctors who are knowledgeable about the potential diseases around the world, and can give you valuable information to assist in your decision of what vaccinations you need.  They also can give advice on preventative measures you can take and other things you should look out for, such as poor drinking water and food contamination.  Your primary care doctor most likely will not be as knowledgeable in these areas as a Travel Clinic Physician, and may not be able to give certain vaccinations, such as Yellow Fever.

Unless you are completely spooked by the idea of contracting any and every potential disease, or money is of no issue to you, decisions will have to be made.  Vaccinations can get pretty expensive, pretty quickly,  and the fact is that you probably do not need to get every vaccine.  For example, I decided not to get the rabies vaccine.  Rabies happens to be one of the most expensive vaccinations.  I figured I will stay away from stray dogs, monkeys and the like and I will more likely than not, continue living rabies-free…fingers crossed.

I must admit, I don’t even have the slightest clue when it comes to doctors, health care or anything medical related.  I was typically healthy in my 20s, and only ended up visiting a doctor a few times.  All I can say is doing the research made the process a little less painful and a little less daunting than it had seemed beforehand.  Going into the appointment with some prior knowledge, and adding the doctor’s advice and opinions definitely helped make my decisions easier.  Be sure to schedule your appointment far in advance, at least 6 months before departure.  The vaccination for Hepatitis A, for example, is given in a 2 shot series, with the second shot coming 6 months after the first.  Also, keep in mind that I am not a doctor.  Please do not take this post as medical advice, and consult a real doctor for any medical related questions.  Happy, healthy and safe travels to all!

2/6/17


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