Before a journey – short vaccination guide

Once we decide to travel, most of us already know where to book flights, accommodation, which sites or travel agencies to use. Even if most of the travel agencies offering all kind of trips and holiday packages are selling these with insurance included, we used to forget 2 important factors. The insurances mentioned above and […]

Once we decide to travel, most of us already know where to book flights, accommodation, which sites or travel agencies to use. Even if most of the travel agencies offering all kind of trips and holiday packages are selling these with insurance included, we used to forget 2 important factors. The insurances mentioned above and the vaccines.

Years ago while preparing my trip to China was the first time I was thinking which vaccines I might need. Luckily nowadays is getting more and more easy to get the right information, yet many of you still don’t know what vaccine in which country you might need.

You might ask, why do you need those shots? Because in a foreign country, you’re putting yourself at risk for the diseases and infections that reside there and once sick, can be much more painful than a small shot.

The internet is full of information, yet, check your personal vaccine history by talking to your doctor, you may have had some of them when you were younger. If you speak English, for more detailed information, please visit the official CDC traveler’s health site ( to learn exactly which travel vaccinations are recommended for each country, or, check the site of the medical centers in your area.

Please keep in your mind that the vaccines are not for free. In some of the countries you can buy the vaccines in pharmacies and being vaccinated by your doctor you can save money, compared to the prices from vaccination centers. Once you received your travel vaccinations, ask the doctor for a yellow immunization card, which lists all your vaccination details. Is the only document what immigration officials in some countries will accept as proof of vaccines you got. I keep it always with my passport, so the chances to forget before any trip are minimized.

The yellow immunization card

Yes, I know, we all have our immune system, why we need vaccines too?! Because our system knows that viruses which we met during our everyday life. Once you are in a foreign country, your immune system will have to deal with diseases and viruses which never met before. Till will learn which are the bad guys will take time and you might up having some painful infections. One of the last days, while waiting on the airport had a discussion about vaccines and the other person told me, that all this are just to make the people getting vaccinated. Was asking him, how was possible that the first Spanish soldiers arrived to South and Latin American countries could fight so efficiently against the indigene inhabitants? How is possible that many of this native people died shortly after the white people arrived to this places, having infections not known by they own “doctors”? Nothing wrong in being sceptic, but the history was showing us some examples how whole populations can be affected by unknown viruses.

Let’s take a look which are the most common infections and diseases can ruin your days while home or on a journey:


Most probably we all had already a few times and we all know its symptoms. Yet, due to the mutations this virus has is no vaccine against all types of flu or no lifetime protection. The vaccines you can buy are offering protection against a few types of flu, but there are several other types too. If you are lucky to meet a virus which you already got injected into your body, than the immune system will recognize it and destroy it. Otherwise, even if you got  a vaccine against flu, you might get sick for a few days.

Injection: single

Protection: approx. 1 year

Recommended for: all of the countries


Hepatitis A

Is a liver disease spread through food and water contaminated by the feces of an infected person. It can also be spread through sex. There is no cure.

Injection: 2 injections over 6 months

Protection: lifetime

Recommended for: all of the countries


Hepatitis B

Just as Hepatitis A, is a liver disease spread through blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. Symptoms are often mild, so you may not realize you have it. Left untreated it can damage your l

In case of injections, similar as for Hepatitis A. Multiple injections over a few months.



Tetanus is bacteria found in the soil and animal excrement. If it enters a wound, it creates a deadly toxin called tetanospasmin. Symptoms include nerve spasms and contractions that spread to the arms and legs, and can affect the ability to breathe. Untreated, is often fatal. The vaccine is sometimes mixed with vaccines for Diphtheria, so you have a kind of ,ultiple protection.

Injection: single

Protection: approx. 10 years

Recommended for: mostly in the countries of the “3rd world”


Yellow Fever

A mosquito-borne viral disease with a high mortality rate, which is why some countries require vaccination if you recently traveled to parts of South American or Africa. Symptoms of yellow fever include: fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, and abdominal pain. Severe cases include hemorrhagic fever, and possible death. The price of this injection is somewhat higher, almost the double than the previous ones.

Injection: single

Protection: lifetime

Recommended for: some countries in South America & Africa (see full list of the countries here:



The four different strains of Malaria all are transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito, the anopheles mosquito. Malaria is characterized by fever and flu-like symptoms, including chills, headache, body aches and fatigue. Malaria can cause kidney failure, coma and death. The medicine for malaria is the quinin, can be found in tonic water. So, if you are ready to drink gin tonic in industrial quantities you might survive as the gin is disinfecting your stomach and the quinin is fighting against malaria. However, if you want an effective way of treatment, use the medicine.

Injection: no vaccines, but medicine

Protection: for as long as you’re on the medication

Recommended for: mostly Africa, parts of Asia



Cholera is a diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with a bacterium. It kills over 100,000 people every year. Cholera is spread by consuming water or food contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Symptoms can be mild, but severe cases include watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps.

Injection: single

Protection: 1 – 2 years

Recommended for: several African countries, India



There are a few different forms of meningitis. Actually, it’s a bacterial infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. Some of the symptoms are sudden fever, headache, and stiff neck. It spreads from person to person or eating contaminated food. Some countries in Africa & the Middle East have regular outbreaks.

Injection: single

Protection: 3 – 4 years

Recommended for: Africa and Middle East


Actually being abroad or  home, unfortunately still can happen accidents, you can get several other infections, car can hit you, or many other can happen and there is no treatment for all or any way of preventing everything. I do really hope that nothing from all this written above will happen to you! What I was trying to tell you, to be a bit aware of the most common viruses and infections which can happen to you. Unfortunately some if these are much more painful than getting 1-2 shots, so better you don’t try to save on vaccines.

What to do if you are somewhere “end of the world” and you get sick? Taking in consideration how serious the situation is, you need to go to a doctor or hospital. However, before you start your trip, do not forget to clarify with your insurance company, in case you will need any kind of medical help, what is covered, eventually you need to pay for it, but you will get that back. As well, do not forget to check which doctors or hospitals from the country you will travel are on a “no go” list for insurance fraud. Once you have the bad luck to go to such a doctor, you might have insurance, yet you will need to pay for everything.

Leave a Reply