The Importance of Travel Vaccinations

Posted on July 15, 2021

After months of on and off lockdown you're probably excited for the world to be slowly opening up again! As you get ready to plan your next adventure abroad there are a lot of things to plan and keep in mind. 

But did you know some countries require travel vaccinations? It's important to stay up to date with the latest vaccine travel requirements. And it can be confusing, especially right now!

But don't worry, we've got you covered with this handy guide. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about vaccines for travelling. This guide includes information on COVID vaccinations for travel as well! 

Travel Vaccines: All You Need to Know

When it comes to travelling there are a lot of things to think about, and a lot of things that can go wrong. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to mitigate risk. One of those is investing in good travel insurance to protect yourself from anything from lost baggage to repatriation. 

Another thing you can do to mitigate the risk of needing to use that insurance is getting your travel vaccinations. Which ones you should get will depend primarily on where you're travelling, potential risks you might be taking, and government requirements for tourism. 

Certain diseases are found only in certain areas, such as Japanese Encephalitis, which is found primarily in Southeast Asia. You can get a vaccine for this and never have to worry about getting sick on your vacation! It's great to have one less thing to worry about. 

Vaccines can also be required by some countries, especially the Yellow Fever vaccine. Many countries throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East require proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination and you won't be able to enter the country if you don't have one. That would certainly ruin your trip! 

Of course, the vaccine topic of the hour is definitely the COVID vaccine. Things change seemingly by the hour, but it is expected that many countries will soon require proof of a COVID vaccination in order to enter. 

Always check with the government websites of your intended destinations before travel. As rules are constantly changing to adapt to the ongoing situation, it's also a good idea to check with your own government's website. The Canadian Government website is a good resource for other travel information as well. 

Where Do I Get Travel Vaccines?

When it comes to getting vaccines for travel it can sometimes be surprisingly difficult, especially if it's an unusual vaccine. We mentioned Japanese Encephalitis earlier - since it only occurs in Southeast Asia and not in North America, it might be hard to find someone who can give you the shot. 

It's important to talk to your doctor before travel to find out the availability of vaccines and the risk level for the areas you plan to travel to. For some of these vaccinations, it might be easier to get them upon landing in the country if you speak the language. 

Of course, for Yellow Fever vaccinations, this is generally not possible as you need to already have the vaccine before arriving. Additionally, there are frequent shortages of this vaccine in Canada. They can only be received at designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres

What Vaccines Are Required for International Travel?

Depending on the country they may require several vaccines or none at all. Many countries won't require a vaccine but it's highly recommended. Let's look at the most common vaccines that countries may require or you should get anyways. 

Typhoid and Paratyphoid Fever

Typhoid and Paratyphoid Fever are similar diseases you can get through food and water that has been contaminated. While very rare in North America it is relatively common in countries with poorer standards of sanitation, most commonly in Asian countries such as India, China, and Indonesia. 

Symptoms include a sustained high fever, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation, and loss of appetite. Some people also experience a rash that features flat, pinkish spots. The vaccine can be received orally or as an injection. 

Meningococcal Disease 

This is a disease caused by bacteria that leads to blood infection. It is spread by close contact or coughing. It is found worldwide but most cases are found in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Symptoms include a sudden fever, vomiting, confusion, light sensitivity, and a stiff neck. The vaccine is typically given as one dose with a follow-up shot 4-5 years later. For a more in depth explanation on meningococcal disease, refer to our article. You'll find more details there.

Yellow Fever

As previously discussed, this disease occurs in many parts of the world. Most people will not experience symptoms. But among those that do, general body aches, nausea, fever, and fatigue are the most common early symptoms.

The disease has a severe form that can be very deadly. The vaccine is given in one dose and only needs a booster shot every 10 years. More information about the causes, breakdowns, outcome and treatments for Yellow Fever can be found here.

Once you get the vaccine you will be given a card that you should keep with your important documents. You will be asked for this card while travelling to many countries which require a Yellow Fever vaccine. 

Rabies

Rabies is found all over the world but the vast majorities of deaths occur in Africa and Asia in predominantly rural areas. Early symptoms are flu-like, followed by convulsions and hallucinations, culminating in coma and death.

It is one of the most fatal diseases in the world, with over a 99% fatality rate. However, a vaccine is generally not recommended unless you have a high likelihood of encountering rabies. With such a staggering fatality rate, we thought it important to provide you with an in depth piece on the topic.

Japanese Encephalitis

Unfortunately, Japanese Encephalitis can be found in far more countries than it was originally detected. We've done the up to date research on where it has been found and what the common symptoms and treatments are.

This is an infection of the brain by a virus generally spread by mosquitoes. Symptoms are generally a benign low fever but can occasionally result in severe infections. The vaccine comes in two doses received about four weeks apart. 

Cholera

This is a disease spread through contaminated water and food. It is primarily found in areas such as Africa, Asia, and the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Cholera was first detected in 1817 and believe to have spread through contaminated rice. The dynamics of how it continues to spread has long since changed causing it to still have an impact on population resulting in 120,000 deaths each year globally.

Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and rapid heartbeat. The vaccine is usually given orally in a single dose. Continue reading for more information on the history of cholera, symptoms and treatments and causes.

Pertussis

Also known as whooping cough it is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by bacteria. This disease is found worldwide. Symptoms include persistent and violent coughing. Unfortunately Pertussis was thought to be eliminated until recently where it is making its way back into our society.

The vaccine is given in a single shot. Generally, you should receive a booster shot every ten years. 

Poliomyelitis

This virus is transmitted through several vectors such as contaminated food and water and respiration. Luckily, cases are currently only found in two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The vaccine is typically given to children in four doses over the course of several years.  We are blessed enough in Canada to be offered this vaccine (and many others) free of charge for our children, as the outcomes are literally crippling. However with vaccine hesitancy on this rise, many parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids. If you plan to travel with your little ones, you need to be informed on the possibilities of contracting Polio.

Tetanus and Diphtheria 

Also known as Lockjaw, Tetanus is an infection that affects the nervous system.   It can be found everywhere as it is spread through bacteria spores in the environment. A single shot with booster shots every ten years is typically recommended. 

Diphtheria is a nose and throat infection. It is currently found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, and India. It is typically given in the same vaccine as Tetanus, only needing a booster shot every ten years.  

Cases are very low in Canada with less than 5 per year. However, as mentioned above it can be found anywhere so we still recommend to arm yourself with knowledge on the topic.

Countries That Don't Require Vaccination For Travel

As we briefly mentioned above, there are quite a few countries that don't require any vaccinations. These include destinations such as France (the most visited country on Earth), the United Kingdom, or further-flung locations such as South Korea. 

However, the situation is currently in flux due to the pandemic. All of these countries that do not currently require travel vaccinations may soon require proof of a COVID vaccination. 

Regardless of whether vaccinations are required, nothing shuts down a fun vacation like getting sick. Science has provided us with many vaccines (even a shot for Shingles, which 1 in 3 Canadians are at-risk for).

With this in mind, it's a good idea to figure out which, if any, diseases are likely to come up in your travels. Just because a country may have a specific disease doesn't mean you're likely to encounter it in your travels.

For instance, some diseases are usually only found in tropical nature, or in very rural areas. If you're not planning to go to those areas, a doctor may not deem it necessary for you to get a vaccine before travelling. Regardless, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor about vaccination concerns before travel. 

What Else Should I Know About Travel Requirements? 

Now that you have the travel vaccination side of things figured out there are still a lot of things to keep in mind when planning your trip. Travel insurance, who you're travelling with, airline miles, budgeting - we can help with all of that! 

But if you're still in the early stages of planning we have some great tips for you. Check out Insurdinary's top solo travel destinations of 2021 and get ready for your next adventure!

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