I hate shots.
I really, really hate shots.
Unfortunately, if you are planning a trip to South East Asia, vaccines are HIGHLY recommended.
So I got a lot of shots…
First, you need to do your research!
The internet is great, but I really recommend talking with a clinician. I work at Johns Hopkins, so I just went to our travel clinic, Johns Hopkins Travel Medicine. If you don’t live near Hopkins, or perhaps another hospital with their own travel clinic, there is also Passport Health with locations in most states. You might even want to contact your local Health Department.
My clinician was great! First thing she did was hand me a stack of papers….probably about 50 pages of information
For each country there was an information sheet with information on:
- Malaria (and Malaria Map)
- Traveler’s Diarrhea
- Other Concerns
- Medical Care
- Travel Advisory
After about an hour of talking about each of these points for each of the countries I am visiting (Check out my TRAVEL MAP!) we decided:
- My titers (immunity levels) “good to go” for the following:
- Hep B
- Measles, mumps, rubella
Yay! No SHOTS!
- But I needed the following vaccines:
- Hep A (1 shot pre-trip, 2nd shot 6 months later for lifetime immunity)
- Typhoid Fever (1 shot)
- Japanese Encephalitis (3 shots)
- Rabies (3 shots)
- TDAP, for Pertussis (1 shot)
Boo! LOTS OF SHOTS!
- I would take malaria medication every day while traveling.
- I would travel with a prescription to treat diarrhea.
How do vaccines work?
Well the short and simple version; Vaccines contain a killed/weakened version of the virus/bacteria, this version does not make you “sick”, but your body still reacts by creating antibodies specific to the virus/bacteria. The antibodies then remain in your bloodstream, prepared for battle in case you do, one day, get infected. Your body essentially creates trained soldiers (antibodies) who knows the enemy’s (virus/bacteria infection) game plan and exactly how to defeat them.
Possible? Yes. Common? No, not really. Personally, I am a HUGE BABY, and I complained about my arm hurting NON-STOP. But other than that, nope, nothing!
Why the Rabies vaccine?
I’ve gotten asked that question a couple times and based on my talk with my clinician, IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT. Here is a screen shot from the CDC website:
The thing that makes the Rabies Vaccine SO important is the RIG dosage. The RIG dosage, Rabies Immune Globulin, provides an individual immediate antibodies until their body can respond to the vaccine by actively producing antibodies of its own. This “very important shot” needs to be administered as soon as possible, and unfortunately, when traveling through SE Asia, it is not always readily available. Therefore, if you get the pre-exposure vaccine, you don’t need the RIG shot, and you don’t need to potentially RUIN your whole trip because wherever you happen to be doesn’t have the RIG dosage.
Let’s talk money $$
Vaccines are NOT cheap. For example, the Rabies pre-exposure vaccine series (3 shots) costs about $900.
Yeah that’s right.
Essentially, the total cost of vaccines was about 6-7 TIMES what I am spending on accommodations for 55 DAYS!!!
Fortunately for me, my HEALTH INSURANCE ROCKS, so every single one of my vaccines was covered! WOOHOO I don’t have much experience with insurance companies, so I am not sure what they will/will not cover, but don’t let the cost keep you from getting the recommended/required vaccines.
The cost of preventive medicine (aka the vaccines ) is much cheaper than what it will cost you to treat the infection/disease.
Therefore, when traveling, whether it is to SE Asia or any other country, it is always a good idea check and see what vaccines/medications are recommended. Preventive medicine will only help to ensure you have an amazing trip!
Tomorrow I have my last TWO shots, and it is the start of the 1 month countdown to my departure!
Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette
Gif from Giphy
Featured Image from Brian Hoskins