There are two schools of thought on travel immunizations. Some people think the shots will vaccinate against illness. Others believe that the side effects from the drugs are worse than the illness they are preventing. I’m not sure which is absolutely correct, but to prepare for my upcoming travels I have subscribed to the theory of “better safe than sorry.”
First, I visited my general practitioner to let her know my travel intentions. She gave me a physical and had me go to a lab for routine blood work. Then, I went to the travel clinic at The Queen’s Medical Center.
When I met with the travel nurse, I told her my long-term travel plans were pretty open and that I didn’t really have a specific itinerary. She suggested several vaccinations and gave me reading materials on the suggested drugs. In the end, I got vaccinated for Hepatitis A (already had Hepatitis B), typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, rabies and TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). I also picked up some prescription anti-diarrhea and anti-malaria pills, just in case.
Planning ahead is important when considering travel immunizations because some vaccines need more than one dose and follow specific schedules. For instance, I received the two Hep A shots six months apart. Other vaccinations required a series of two or three doses that all occurred within a month. Try to nail down your itinerary before going to the travel clinic. This will make it easier to decide which medicines to take. Because I only have a vague idea about where I’m going, the “better safe than sorry” theory sounded like the best option for me.