As parents of young children, our goal is to keep our children safe and healthy. We recognize that we will be traveling to “exotic” lands, ripe with new germs and far from our familiar healthcare. We are pro-vaccinations, and thus aren’t questioning the validity of immunizations. However, we do have to make decisions about those shots and prophylactics that are relevant to our destinations. The biggest concern is to be protected from life-threatening diseases that pose a real potential threat.
As seasoned travelers, Daniel and I have had our share of inoculations and immunizations, but we learned that many of our previous inoculations had expired, and we were due a fresh round. Specifically, we had to update our typhoid vaccination, and had to do a 3-part series of Hepatitis B shots (just finished this week!). We have confirmed that our children are caught up on all of the recommended/required shots for their school district, but also had them take the Typhoid vaccination orally, and will have to get them yellow fever shots before heading to South America.
After evaluating the risks of the countries that we anticipate traveling to, here are some stand-out vaccines that we had to consider:
Hepatitis A and B – acute liver inflammation transmitted by fecal-oral or blood. Vaccinations are valid for 10 years. *Currently, these vaccinations are part of standard shots given to young children, but Dan and I had to get the Hepatitis B shots which were not a part of our childhood inoculations.
Japanese Encephalitis – potentially fatal virus transmitted by mosquitos and common in parts of Asia and the South Pacific.
Malaria – an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitos (common in tropical areas).
Meningitis – sometimes fatal viral or bacterial illness, which causes an inflammation on the meninges.
Rabies – often fatal viral disease transmitted through the saliva/ bite of an animal.
Tetanus – acute fatal disease that causes severe muscular spasms and contractions (often of the neck and jaw). The bacteria enters the body through a cut or puncture wound.
Typhoid Fever – life threatening illness contracted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated by Salmonella typhi bacteria.
Yellow Fever – an acute viral disease spread by mosquitos. *Required proof of this shot is needed for entry to many countries. Dan and I had gotten these shots over 10 years ago, which was considered the maximum duration for efficacy. However, it is now believed that those vaccinations last longer, and we should not need to get another dose.
One of the best sources to find out about those inoculations that are recommended for travel is the CDC (Center for Disease Control) In anticipation of our trip, we had brief discussions with our children’s pediatrician, and she recommended getting the typhoid prophylactic around 8 weeks before our departure (done). Our doctors were also able to assist with malaria prescriptions, but yellow fever and or/ Japanese encephalitis can only be obtained through a travel clinic.
Getting caught up on all of our inoculations required some advance planning, as some of the shots need to be administered in separate batches (with the first being about 6 months before the second). Dan and I actually had to go through an accelerated cycle of Hepatitis B shots because we started our first vaccine in the series in less than 6 months before our departure. Sadly, cost ended up playing a major part in which shots were an easy “yes” and which we are risking omission. We ultimately decided that the risks of contracting Japanese Encephalitis or getting Rabies from an animal bite were so low vs. the extremely high costs (US average $1000 for a series of painful rabies shots, per person!) that we are not getting these shots. We are also delaying the Yellow Fever vaccinations for our children, in the hopes that it may be more affordable to get this shot outside of the United States. One of our biggest shocks was the high cost of malaria tablets. We had to rethink how many days we would spend in areas with a malaria risk, so that we could reduce the number of pills that we would require. We also ended up purchasing our Malaria tablets from a Canadian Pharmacy in order to save us about $600 off of the prices quoted in Oregon!