Travel Vaccines

The world around us is rife with bacteria, viruses, and a whole host of other microorganisms that are very capable of causing an equally varied assortment of infections and diseases. To deal with this, we are equipped with a versatile defensive network of cells and molecules called the immune system, and our immune systems are very good at dealing with most potential infections. Where our immune system needs a bit of help in dealing with disease, vaccinations are provided to prime and prepare a defensive response against particularly dangerous and virulent diseases.

However our vaccination programme and our immune systems are prepared to deal with infections we encounter here in the UK. In many parts of the world we would be exposed to new pathogens capable of catching our immune system unawares and causing serious illness. Because of this, it is advised that people travelling to new locations seek out travel vaccines appropriate to their destination, and in this article we look at travel vaccination and its ins and outs.

Why would I need travel vaccinations?

Different countries often possess different climates and environments in which different wildlife are supported, and this isn’t only true of animals and plants, but of the microorganisms we don’t see that cause disease. Because these microorganisms are so different to the ones we encounter at home, our bodies can struggle to deal with them before disease sets in. In these cases, travel vaccinations are a great asset as they prepare your immune system and thereby prevent illness.

 Any holiday can be ruined by unwanted and unexpected disease. Moreover many tropical infections can be severe and even life threatening, which is why travel vaccinations are highly recommended.

What travel vaccinations are available?

There are a number of different travel vaccines available, and which ones you would benefit from vary according to your travel destinations.

Examples of travel vaccinations include:

  • Polio – Offered if you are going to the Asian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) or Nigeria.
  • Tetanus – Advised if you weren’t vaccinated against the disease as a child, or haven’t had a booster in 10 years, and are travelling anywhere outside of Western Europe, Australasia, and North America.
  • Diphtheria – Offered if you are going to a country currently suffering from diphtheria and are likely to be working closely with locals there.
  • Typhoid – Usually found in Africa, India, South America, and Asia.
  • Cholera – Recommended if you are going to a country currently suffering from an outbreak of Cholera.
  • Hepatitis A – Affects people in Africa, Central and South America, and the Far Eastern end of Asia.
  • Hepatitis B – Found everywhere in the world but in small amounts in Northern Europe, you are likely to need this vaccine if you are travelling to a location where you will work in a healthcare capacity or are sharing needles or having intercourse with multiple partners.
  • Yellow fever vaccine – Usually in Africa and South America, this is a highly contagious disease you should seek vaccination for.
  • Rabies – Offered if you are at risk of being bitten by an infected animal in many parts of Asia, Africa, and South America.
  • Tuberculosis – is vaccinated against by the BCG vaccine which is provided both for people travelling to areas of likely infection and to people in the UK.
  • Japanese Encephalitis Vaccination – Is not restricted to Japan and is offered to people travelling to large areas of Asia where Japanese Encephalitis is rampant.
  • Tick-borne Encephalitis Vaccination – Is provided to travellers journeying to central Europe and much of ASIA.
  • MMR Vaccination – is a part of routine childhood vaccinations in the UK but is offered to people who are travelling and have yet to be immunised.
  • Meningococcal meningitis vaccine – Protects against a meningitis infection which can occur virtually anywhere in the world. Some countries are particularly stringent about this vaccine, and you will need proof that you have been vaccinated with the meningococcal meningitis vaccine if you are to ender Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.

Where can I get travel vaccinations from?

You can obtain travel vaccinations either from private healthcare providers or from your GP. The NHS offers some travel vaccines, but for others you might be obliged to pay towards the cost of the vaccination. If you seek vaccination from private providers you will definitely have to pay the full cost of whichever vaccination or series of vaccinations you are looking for.

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