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A Guide to Vaccinations for Going Abroad

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What You Need to Know

  1. Your GP should be equipped with an up to date list of what vaccinations you should require for your particular travel plans.
  2. Ensure you keep an up-to-date list of your vaccinations with your passport while on your travels.
  3. Look into vaccinations as early as possible; some need to be taken at least three months in advance.
  4. As well as country-specific vaccinations, make sure your tetanus and polio vaccinations are kept up to date and that you can prove this is the case.
  5. Be aware that you may have to pay for some vaccinations, so be sure to factor this into your travel budget.
  6. Consult your doctor over possible side-effects to vaccinations and seek help if you experience any severe reactions.

Where to Get Advice

Your local doctor’s surgery should be your first port of call when planning what vaccinations you need to get for your travels, and some may even have special clinics or travel nurses to deal with such enquiries.

Your GP or travel nurse will have an up-to-date list of what vaccinations are needed, and which are recommended for the places you plan on visiting, so make use of their specialist knowledge.

Additionally, most travel operators will also be happy to advise you on medical issues that have to be considered when planning a holiday.

When to Get Vaccinated

As well as learning what vaccinations you may need for your travels, you should also find out when you need to get these at the earliest possible opportunity.

The following table shows you which conditions you are at risk of contracting in which areas and how far ahead you need to be vaccinated prior to leaving.

ConditionHow Far Ahead You Should Get VaccinatedHigh Risk Areas
Diphtheria 3 Months Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, South East Asia
TB 3 Months Africa, South America, Tropical Asian-Pacific
Rabies 1 Month Africa, South America, Asia
Cholera 2 Weeks Africa, India, South East Asia, The Middle East, Central America
Yellow Fever 10 Days Sub-Saharan Africa, South America
Typhoid 10 Days Indian Sub Continent, Africa, The Americas, The Far East, Eastern Europe
Hepatitis A 2 Weeks Africa, The Americas, India, South East Asia, Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe
Hepatitis B 2 Months Tropical North East Australia and South Asia
Japanese Encephalitis 1 Month Tropical North East Australia, South Asia
Meningococcal Meningitis 2-3 Weeks Africa, Saudi Arabia
Poliomyelitis 3 Months Africa, Indian Sub-Continent
Tetanus 3 Months Worldwide
Tick-Borne Encephalitis 3 Months (2 Weeks on an accelerated course) Far Eastern Europe, China, Japan

Again, it’s crucial to get expert advice for this. Failing to get fully-vaccinated in time can leave you at risk of catching a tropical disease while abroad.

NHS or Private?

Some, but by no means all, travel vaccinations are available through the NHS, and availability can vary from region to region.

Generally speaking, vaccinations against cholera, hepatitis A, diphtheria, meningitis C and typhoid will probably be available to you free of charge through the NHS.

On the other hand, vaccinations against hepatitis B, rabies, TB, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis are unlikely to be available free of charge.

It may be the case that you can get these through your GP at a cost.

Alternatively, consult the International Society of Travel Medicine website to find an approved private clinic. Though this can be more expensive, it is often usually quicker, with many happy to offer same-day appointments.

You can also find great advice from online pharmacies such as Lloyds.

Be aware that getting properly vaccinated can be a lengthy and costly process.

The NHS advises that you budget £50 for each dose of a vaccine you need, meaning if one requires three doses, you should add an extra £150 to the overall cost of your trip.

Note that yellow fever vaccinations cannot be given in local surgeries as they are only available from designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres (YFVCs). Find you nearest one using the search tool on the NaTHNaC website, or consult your doctor.

Possible Side-Effects

Be prepared to experience some undesirable side-effects to your vaccinations, particularly in the couple of days after taking them.

For instance, possible side effects of a hepatitis A vaccination include tiredness, nausea, tiredness and headaches.

Similarly, cholera vaccines can cause upset stomachs, while some people experience muscle aches, vomiting and mild fevers after being vaccinated against rabies.

Again, consult your doctor about possible side-effects and should you experience an extreme reaction to a vaccination, seek professional help.


Malaria is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and is common in many parts of Asia and Africa, as well as parts of Central and South America.

Notably, there is no vaccine against the disease, though a range of anti-malarial drugs can significantly reduce the risk of you getting infected.

As with all travel vaccinations, it pays to do your homework. Check with your doctor, travel nurse or tour operator if there is a risk of malaria and also check to see what is the best type of medication for your destination, as mosquitoes in some regions may be resistant to certain drugs.

As a rule, you should start taking anti-malarial medication around two weeks before entering a malarial zone and up to six weeks after your return.

Additionally, you should endeavour to minimise your risk of infection while overseas, by using mosquito nets and various types of repellent, for example.

Other Considerations

Alongside getting properly-vaccinated, you should also ensure that you minimise the risk of picking up any infections or diseases while overseas.

Many diseases are transmitted through unclean water, so, if in doubt, always drink bottled water.

Similarly, take sensible precautions such as always practising safe sex, covering up your skin in mosquito-rich areas and knowing where you will be able to get help should you fall ill at any point.

Regardless of whether or not you are vaccinated it is worth bearing in mind the health risks associated with the are you are visiting when purchasing travel insurance.

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