The Travel Vaccinations Drama.

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I went to see my GP to talk travel vaccinations yesterday. I wish I hadn’t!

I came away with a sinking feeling, convinced we’re all going to be sick or even die, either from terrible tropical disease or from the toxic vaccinations themselves. I can also feel a big financial headache coming on, probably a migraine.

Travel Vacinations Rabies
Do we need rabies vaccinations to protect us from savage beasts like these?  Bali.

Nothing on this website is to be taken as medical advice, these posts simply document our thought processes and experiences, before travel, and during.

How Much Will All of the Travel Vaccinations Cost?

I was quoted $1000 /person for a full set of travel vaccinations, starting from scratch.  EEEK!!!

That was for:

Rabies

Japanese Encephalitis

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Typhoid

Cholera

Polio

ADT  Diptheria and Tetanus.

The Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies Vaccinations were the big ones, both costing around $300. We didn’t discuss Malaria Prophylaxis and Flu Vaccines.

 How Many Travel Vaccinations are Really Necessary?

At the moment I just don’t know. I’m putting in a lot of research and trying to make this big decision for me, my husband and my children, it’s a lot of pressure.

The doctor doesn’t want to offer me his own advice, he just wants to tell me the risks and let me make up my own mind. That’s understandable I suppose, he could be held legally accountable.

At least he didn’t put the hard sell on me as so many specialist travel clinics do.

There are plenty of websites to help you make that call, these are two I’ve looked at recently.

Check out the Hepatitis A Map.

The Thailand Malaria Map. All other destinations are also on the NHS website.

It’s Cheaper to Get Travel Vaccinations in Thailand.

Medical care is much cheaper in Thailand and the standard is excellent. I know of many travelling families who opt to get their vaccinations in a clinic in Bangkok (allied to the dept of tropical medicine at the university and the tropical diseases hospital). The link takes you to their vaccination price list.  ( I have no involvement with the clinic, this is not a sponsored post.)

We have opted to spend a few months in Malaysia before we head up to Bangkok, If I could rebook my tickets I would. I’m convinced that Malaysia is safe, but I’ve still got that niggling worry. What if I make the wrong call and my child gets sick, or worse?

So What am I Going to Do?

I don’t know yet, I have no answers. I can tell you that I have never had a rabies vaccination, nor have I thought them necessary.

 I have read of children having run-ins with monkeys and street dogs, so yes, I am concerned.

Realistically, if we are within reach of a hospital I see no need for rabies vaccines. You still need post-bite therapy, even with the vaccine.

We drilled it into the kids to stay away from animals on previous trips, they were really good with that, but a litter of puppies in Bali was too much to resist.

We live with Dengue Fever here in Queensland, so we’re used to avoiding mosquito bites, we are very rarely bitten.

Presumably , if we can avoid Dengue carrying mosquitos, it shouldn’t be hard to avoid malarial ones. See our tips for avoiding mosquitos here.

My son has had giardia and a strain of salmonella, they weren’t too bad at all in either case, so we don’t worry too much about most tropical illnesses.

The locals, in whatever country you visit, do not take antimalarials.

Typhoid and Cholera vaccinations aren’t 100 % effective. I don’t know if it’s really worth getting them, I’m leaning towards typhoid.

Hepatitis A is not a serious illness in children, but is in adults, I’ll probably get that.

We have not had any travel vaccinations for Thailand or Bali, nor did we take antimalarials. If we were trekking up on the Burmese border I would consider taking them. A doctor actually told us not to bother with shots for short holidays in either country, but extended travel is different.

I have gone without malaria prophylaxis for 3 months in India, we were fine, but will I take that risk with the kids? It’s very, very, hard. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please drop them in the comments box below. Thank you!

Update on the Travel Vaccination Situation

We did get some vaccinations in Kuala Lumpur, tetanus and typhoid. In the end we never made it to the Bangkok Clinic. We have not taken any antimalarials, not even for India. In the UK I checked in with my GP, some of the above vaccinations were NOT RECOMMENDED by the NHS, even for India ( we were told at this GP practice). The only extra one I’ve had in the last 2 years of travel is a hepatitis booster because of my age. I’m not trying to sway your opinion, just put it out there that people make money out of these vaccinations and administering them, you should do your own research and do whatever you need to do to feel happy and safe.

Update 2018: These are very tough choices to make and I’m sorry I can’t be more help. In 6 years on the road, none of us has had anything very major, if that helps. We eventually did get the rabies shots, in 2018 and a whole bunch of boosters at that time too.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

25 thoughts on “The Travel Vaccinations Drama.”

  1. Hello, We are traveling as a family starting this coming summer 2020 for a year and plan to stay in Caribbean, the Americas, and possibly Europe. All stays will be relatively long term at anywhere from a few wks to several wks.
    Any recommendation on vaccines? We are from Canada but haven’t given our children all of their normal vaccines at this time because we don’t believe most are necessary or even ideal. Any suggestions or other links for our research would be helpful!
    Thank you and I appreciate the blog. Very helpful!

    Jeremy

    Reply
    • I think for South America you need all of them, including Yellow Fever, check for each country as some countries will require it others not. Europe – nothing I don’t think. Just the normal ones. I’ve heard of people getting Typhoid in the Americas too.

      Reply
  2. Alyson my wife and I are planning a trip to Hotel Everest View near Lukla Nepal in April 2019. I was wondering how you managed with respect to altitude sickness. I will be a fit 70 year old when we reach Lukla and have experienced altitude sickness at 11000 ft. Also I would like to hear what you thought of the flight to Lukla.
    Thanks
    Phil

    Reply
    • Hi Phil. I’m in Namche today, the Everest View Hotel is about 440m above us and we were up there last week on an acclimatisation hike. The hotel itself is modern and packed with hikers. I found it rather disappointing. Personally I’d stay in Namche. The view point above Namche gives Everest views if the skies are clear, or you can still walk up to the Everest View. Namche is 2 days walk from Lukla. The flight to Lukla from Kathmandu is very weather dependent. There were no Flights for 6 days 3 weeks ago and still not every flight is departing due to cloud. Factor that in, flight cancellations are common. We just went to Base Camp with a 73 year old, so I don’t think age is an issue, just attitude and stamina. Altitude is unpredictable, you don’t know who it will hit, ever, but we’re still pretty low here. Get some diamox in Kathmandu and start taking it before you fly. It helps. Sorry for typos, I’m on my phone in the German Bakery in Namche. We walked from here to the Everest View in about 2 hours. I have photos and video coming once we’re back in civilisation.

      Reply
      • Alyson, thanks for the prompt reply and all the info. on HEV and vaccinations it is much appreciated and has helped my trip planning.
        Happy Travels
        Phil

        Reply
  3. Boy I’m so glad to come across your post about travel vaccinations. We are too having financial headaches for all the recommended vaccines. May I please ask why you did not end up taking the Japanese Enchepalitis vaccine?

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  4. My kids had all the vaccines (JE and rabies included ) before we lived in Vietnam for a year. Last year we were in Bali for one week…on returning to our villa my 9 year old son announced “Mum, a dog bit me on the bum at the beach”…so my back was turned for 5 seconds and it had happened. I didn’t know which dog it was and his skin was broken so there is a risk of rabies (read WHO guidelines, any bite or scratch that breaks the skin is a risk)…I felt really happy that he had been pre vaccinated as it involved a simple set of two vaccines readily available at the BIMC clinic. If he hadn’t been vaccinated it would have meant returning to Australia for immunoglobulin, 5 shots and major hassles. The problem with kids is they may not report a ‘minor’ exposure because they have been told so many times ‘don’t go near the animals’ so they’re unwilling to tell. Pre vaccination gives a level of comfort and is safe…so it’s $300…how much is your trip costing? And the vaccine lasts a lifetime. And rabies is fatal. My kids have traveled extensively – I have no doubt the travel bug will be part of their life, and now they are set for life. I’m not suggesting everyone going on a short trip to Bali should have the vaccine but any trip of more than a month in Asia it’s worth thinking about…Yes I’m a doctor but first of all I’m a Mother who loves to travel with her kids and not have to spend too much time worrying.
    I also think it’s a great idea to get the vaccines in Bangkok if you have the time – for example the new JE vaccine (Imojev) costs about $20-40 in Bangkok and ~$300 in Australia (preferential pricing by the vaccine companies not Drs and Pharmacies in Australia rooting the system) and rabies is about $25 a shot compared to $120, but you need 3 shots over 4 weeks (JE just a single shot so much easier to organise).

    Reply
  5. I’m going to Miami (USA) tomorrow, but i want to know Miami and Key West climate at this time of year…… Anyone of yours know? πŸ˜‰ bye for today

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  6. Yes. You’re correct. πŸ™‚ And I have two KBDs (Kintamani Bali Dog). They’re adorable! That’s cuteness! And the vaccines against rabies on humans aren’t cheap – you’re correct! – and I think most of these vaccines unnecessaries and it’s a bit paranoid attitude! Hahaha it’s my view point. But all depends of the place you’re going to. πŸ™‚ bye, my dear!

    Reply
  7. I LOVED the phot with the dogs who you posted! πŸ˜€ maybe because I’m a dog lover, maybe because I’m a dog hoarder (I NEED to confess), but, hahaha, these vaccines aren’t unnecessaries, but I simply WOULDN’T take all theses. I think it’s a bit paranoiac attitude πŸ˜‰ hahaha I would like to have a Belgium shepherd dog. But stray dogs are dangerous, because they can be rabid or with another disease. It’s nasty and sad, of course. And I’m going to USA next week. But I think most of these vaccines are most by paranoia than necessity. But, hahaha, it’s only my opinion. You will choose what do you think it’s REALLY necessary. Take a look at your travel plans and see if you have the REAL necessity of take any of these vaccines. Bye, dear!

    Reply
  8. Hey there thank you for the posts will share and like wherever I can, very informative info and love the varied opinions. We are about to head to Bali for three months starting our familyworldreview.com site. I had all vac shots last time I went to Bali (last year) and was really worried about getting them done on time. My doctor scared me into thinking I needed everything!! This time however I booked with another doctor at the same clinic and after explaining we were heading to Bali, his only comment was….. “and” this threw me off guard and I re iterated that we were going to Bali hence our visit. He then asked why we were again as we really don’t need any shots !!!! Obviously this rattled me and I had to come home to do a lot more research and have decided that caution and cleanliness will be our protection this time around. I have reasons for deciding this after researching each vac shot and its 1. Effectiveness 2. Side affects. 3. Probability of contamination.
    After weighing up all the options this is my decision and ill stick to it. Common sense will go a long way eg: no patting animals, mosquito bite prevention, eating at clean reputable places or cooking for ourselves. Obviously we will only used bottled water.
    With all this in place I’m hoping our trip will be worry free and every bit the dream we imagine it to be. Travel safe everyone x cheers brad

    Reply
    • No, we never had any travel vaccinations for Bali or Thailand when we went for 2 week holidays Brad. It didn’t even cross my mind. But if you had all the injections last year, you shouldn’t need them again for 10-20 years, some never. Have a great trip!

      Reply
  9. Thanks for writing about this. I have been thinking about what (if any) to give my toddler on our trip to India (he will be 4 – 5 years old on the trip). He has gotten none so far, so I have a lot to think about. So far I am planning on getting him the Polio, and DTap ones. I have been thinking about going to Thailand for a month first before India, so thank you for letting me know about the clinic there.
    Would love to know your good tips for avoiding mosquitoes bites in kids!
    -Nicole

    Reply
    • THE best tip for avoiding mozzies, Nicole, is to stay in around dawn and dusk. As soon as it’s “mozzy time” in Australia, that’s it, we go in. It’s tricky with kids of course because that’s when you’ll be going out for dinner. Keep all doors and windows shut, all day, the Dengue ones are active by day, too, use aircon if you can, use repellants. We’re liking natural ones the best, you use more and they’re more expensive but I don’t worry about putting them on my children so much and the results have been good. Carry a can of mosquito spray and nuke your room every now and then, under beds and curtains particularly, do it before you go out. Also keep the children in thick, baggy clothes that covers as much as possible. Mosquitos do bite through clothes, even jeans, but only if they are tight to the skin. Keep moving, don’t sit still, keep your feet up on a chair, avoid shady, damp, still places, stay in the sun and the wind. That makes a big difference, one side of our garden was terrible for mosquitos, the other fine, because thy liked to hang out in the shady palm fronds. And don’t forget they’ll bite your bum when you go to the loo. I think that’s about all I know about avoiding mosquitos, we still get bitten, but not often. Best of luck! We got our typhoid vaccinations in Kuala Lumpur in the end, I don’t know if you saw that post.

      Reply
      • Thank you! Have you ever used those plug in anti mozzy things? They were in all our rooms last visit to India, but don’t really know if they worked or how toxic they are. I would just go hide under our bed net during the prime evening hours and read a bit, but thinking that might be hard with a 4 year old… I like the idea of spraying the room well before going out, I will remember this.
        -Nicole

        Reply
  10. We had all the shots you listed when we went to Cambodia and then just stopped worrying and kicked back and enjoyed the ride!

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  11. I think you’re on the right track and are thinking this through perfectly. The only problem with flying back and forward from Malaysia is that you need 3 shots for rabies – day 1, 7 and 21 from memory. So you’d have to travel at least twice if you were to use cheap flights. Probably no biggie – you’ll still be way ahead in $. How about trying to find a similar clinic in Malaysia? They must be there and would most likely be a similar price to the Thai one. And since you’re travelling indefinitely, what if you decide to go somewhere where you’re not close to a hospital? Somewhere awesome that you don’t discover until you get on the road? At that point without rabies jabs you’ll have to decide to either skip the cool place or delay and get the jabs and wait several weeks to finish the course. Just something to think about. No matter how well trained my kids are, none of us can resist a monkey…..it’s the only reason we chose to get the rabies jab. And we had several fun run-ins with them – days that would have been not as much fun if I’d been saying stay back, don’t touch them, don’t let them bite you, you know you could DIE? lol

    Reply
    • Thanks Tracey, I think we have a plan now. Stay on Peninsular Malaysia for 6 weeks or so, then fly up to Bangkok ( under $200 for all 4 of us), stay around there a month and get some jabs done. I’m nervous of going to Malaysian Borneo without Japanese Encephalitis, we can come back later. Peninsular Malaysia is pretty safe. Boo hates monkeys, he was scared by the ones in Ubud, so no problem staying away from them. You’ve still got to get to a hospital pretty sharpish even with the jabs so monkeys stay off limits. Horrible things, I’ve seen children and adults attacked by them. Usually doing something stupid, like holding food.

      Reply
      • But they’re so cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuttttte!!!!!!! Sounds like you have a great plan. We did similar. Had days 1 and 7 then shot off to Cambodia for two weeks and rocked up on day 21 having had no sleep for the last one! You’ll feel heaps better once it’s done – then you can kick back!

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        • Evil, skanky scabby creatures!!! We like Koh Samet, that’s just half a day’s travel from BKK, we can chill out there if we have enough of the city, but I LOVE Bangkok, so probably won’t.

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  12. Gosh, I really feel for you as a Mumma bear taking care of her cubs.
    Here you are wanting to show them this wonderful world and now it involves
    all the awful possible scenarios.
    All I can think about suggesting, is that when you travelled without children, and felt robust and healthy and didn’t catch anything, that it may just feel safer to protect yourself too because you have the children with you this time. If that makes sense.

    What I mean is, if you get sick without children, you can look after yourself. But if you get sick, with children, who will take care of them (presuming you and hubby got sick).
    When I became a mum I tried to be sure I was also staying as healthy as possible for my dependent child. There is nothing worse than not being able to get up out of bed to cook them something, or if you need a hospital stay and you are somewhere foreign, no family and friends to step in and help out. It’s all a little scary for me to think about.

    Anyway, you are doing an amazing job bringing this adventure to life and I’m sure it will all work out fine. Your research is astounding. Onwards Mumma soldier. xox

    Reply
  13. Alyson, it’s a tough question… and a very personal one. I’ve done a fair amount of solo travel, and quite a bit now with kids in tow. We recently went to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and China with our girls, and we elected to vaccinate for most things except rabies, and skipped malaria treatment as we weren’t going to high risk areas. We have a rule at home and away – don’t pat the pet unless you check with the owner first! Animal bites can be nasty even without the risk of rabies, so, as per mosquitoes, avoid situations where you could get bitten.

    At the end of the day, you want to be able to sleep easy with your decision. If you are lying awake at night while travelling worrying ”Should we have vaccinated???” then you are not having a relaxing time of it. It comes down to your risk appetite…

    If cost is a major issue and vaccinations are significantly cheaper in Thailand, just use KL as a stopover, get a cheapie Airasia connecting flight to Bangkok, get your vax done and head back to Malaysia later in the trip. Might not end up being cheaper in the long run though?

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • I think we will head up to Bangkok after a few weeks, as you say, come back and do Malay Borneo later. I think the pre trip jitters always vanish once you are on the ground. Before we went to Bali I wouldn’t have imagined letting the kids play with a litter of street puppies, but they just looked healthy and gorgeous so I didn’t worry. Thanks for sharing Marni, Cambodia is one of the countries I would take antimalarials for, interesting that you didn’t. Did you fly in and out of Siem Reap?

      Reply

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