We Need Our Fix (of Vaccines)
If you are afraid of a) going to the doctor or b) getting shots, it’s time to conquer those fears. One of the most important planning aspects of traveling is getting vaccinations. Luckily, we’re not afraid of needles. And you won’t be either if you get stuck with as many needles as us. Depending on your destination, you may not be required to get additional vaccines. But, the more third world you go, the more shots and pills you’ll need. And the reality is, since most insurance companies view traveling as a luxury, very few vaccines are covered by insurance. It’s going to cost you. A LOT. That’s why for us, setting money aside for vaccinations and medication for overseas was a priority and big chunk of our budget.
The first thing we did to medically prepare for our trip was contact our primary care doctor. They recommended we talk to a Travel Health Clinic in our network. For us, it was easy to find where to go. We were part of a university network of doctors, which included a travel clinic that is a designated Yellow Fever vaccination center. In some cases, you may have to do more research to find one. Click here to find a clinic closest to you.
It’s best to make an appointment for at least a month before you leave. We learned that some clinics have odd hours or only operate certain days of the week, so the sooner you actually schedule the appointment, the better. Our clinic was open Mondays and Thursdays. It was a gastroentrology office the other days of the week. We needed vaccines, not Pepto Bismol.
Needless to say, once our appointment arrived, our travel doctor was a bit overwhelmed with our itinerary. He started by making sure we were up-to-date on routine vaccines such as tetanus, hepatitis B, MMR and polio. Then, we went country-by-country and determined what vaccinations were required or recommended for each one.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has all of the information you need to get started. We’d recommend doing your own research before meeting with the doctor and then discussing your options at the appointment. There were certain vaccines we knew we definitely needed and others that we went back and forth about, trying to figure out if they were right for us.
Once your doctor determines the list of necessary vaccines, it’s important to check if any of them are available through your primary care doctor. If so, those may be partially or completely covered by insurance. For example, our primary doctor had the Hepatitis A vaccine, which saved us some money. Don’t worry, we needed a break after emptying our pockets for the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine (two shots, $340 each, multiplied by two people). The old JE vaccine had a risk of anaphylactic shock. You would have to get the shot, then sit in the doctor’s office for 4 hours to make sure you didn’t have an allergic reaction. The new vaccine (which we got) has no such risk (Amen to that!!). It’s certainly expensive, but if you get JE while traveling, it carries a 20-30% chance of death. Your brain swells, and that’s only the beginning. We decided $680 per person is a good price to stay alive.
Additionally, some vaccines last for five years, others for 10. We got lucky because Cassie had been to South Africa in the last ten years, so she didn’t need to get another Hepatitis A or Yellow Fever vaccine. Oren got stuck with every needle under the sun. He also had surgery to repair his torn ACL while traveling through Vaccination Nation, so that was more needles.
Vaccines needed for our round-the-world trip: Hepatitis A (2 shots), Yellow Fever, Typhoid (pills or shot), Meningitis, and Japanese Encephalitis (2 shots). We opted not to get a Rabies shot or a Polio booster (part of Kenya is in the Polio Belt in Africa).
We learned that some countries will require proof of the Yellow Fever vaccination in order to enter. We received a yellow international certificate of vaccination from the travel doctor that lists all of our vaccinations. We will simply make a copy of it to leave at home and take the certificate with us when we travel.
After we finished vaccinations, we start discussing Malaria medication. Stay tuned – we’ll be tackling that on our blog.
Want to shoot up with us? Let’s go to the travel doc here.