Don’t skip out on travel vaccinations — they could save your life

Click to play video: 'Vaccinations and safety: Tips you’ll need before setting off on your next vacation'
Vaccinations and safety: Tips you’ll need before setting off on your next vacation
WATCH: How to properly prepare before taking a big vacation. – Jan 25, 2017

It’s a step experts say you shouldn’t skip — when you’re travelling abroad, make sure you have the right vaccinations.

Dr. Suni Boraston, medical director at Travel Clinic – Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, told Global News that while there’s no data that tracks how many Canadians get travel vaccinations, she believes the majority of travellers don’t get vaccinated.

“Canadians need to know that vaccines are safe and still the best way to prevent many diseases,” she said.

“Travel medicine is hard to keep up with, most [general practitioners] are too busy doing other things so ideally one would see a specialist [like an emporiatrician] at a travel clinic prior to travel.”
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A travel clinic can recommend and administer vaccines, but also give travellers prescriptions for malaria, travellers’ diarrhea, altitude illness, leptospirosis (bacterial disease) prevention, among others.

“Ideally you would get vaccinated four to six weeks before travel, but we can protect you against many diseases the day you leave.”

How much will it cost?

Prices for travel vaccinations vary depending on where you live and where you go.

Some clinics are owned and run by public health and while others are private. Some clinics also require a consultation fee. And while government-run health insurance plans won’t cover the cost, some insurance companies may offer coverage.

At Travel Medicine & Vaccination Centre, based in B.C., a consultation can cost $50, while vaccines for hepatitis A and B range from $30 to $70 (depending on the dose).

In Toronto, The Travel Doctor charges $50 for Dukoral and $165 for a full dose of the yellow fever vaccination.

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Before you go to a clinic, request to see a price list to make your decision.

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According to Canada’s Travel and Tourism department, travellers should also review their immunization history to see which type of dose they need.

“You may need additional vaccinations depending on your age, planned travel activities and local conditions. Preventing disease through vaccination is a lifelong process,” the site noted. 

The site allows you to see vaccination recommendations based on the destination you are travelling to. 

What Canadians need to know

Canada currently is facing a shortage of yellow fever vaccinations, the site noted. Travellers who need the shot should contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre in advance to see if it is available.

“Some countries require proof that you have received a yellow fever vaccination before allowing you to enter the country. Consult an embassy or consulate of your destination country in Canada for up-to-date information on its entry and exit requirements before you travel abroad.”

Some countries may need proof of a yellow fever vaccination — do you research before you travel.

WATCH: How to avoid illness abroad

Click to play video: 'Travel: How to avoid illness abroad'
Travel: How to avoid illness abroad

According to experts at Shoppers Drug Mart, the most common illness Canadians pick up in other countries is travellers’ diarrhea (TD).

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“It is an acute diarrheal illness that usually lasts two or three days. It can be caused by any of a number of bacteria (and, less often, parasites), which are usually different from home-based varieties and therefore pose a temporary challenge to the immune system,” experts noted.

“There is no vaccination against all organisms that can cause travellers’ diarrhea. There is an oral vaccine against cholera and a specific strain of E. coli bacteria that is sometimes recommended.”

TD can also be prevented or treated with off-the-counter medications.

Common vaccinations

“Everyone who is going to a developing country should at the very least have their tetanus vaccine updated, two doses of measles vaccine (unless they’ve had the disease) and hepatitis A vaccine,” Boraston said.

“Ideally tetanus would be combined with diphtheria and pertussis which is $50. Measles is free, hepatitis A vaccine costs $65 and is two doses six to 12 months apart.”

Boraston said most people born after 1982 in Canada have had the hepatitis B vaccine.

The shots can be given as a combination or separately, and she added hepatitis A is recommended for all travellers. Experts at Shoppers Drug Mark noted the vaccine can last a lifetime, or may need a booster shot in 10 to 15 years.

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Twinrix is a combination of hepatitis A and B. “Only use if the patient needs both vaccines. Many Canadians have already had hepatitis B vaccine,” she explained.

For measles, mumps, and rubella, Boraston said there are two vaccinations recommended for everyone (unless they have already had disease).

Yellow fever vaccine is needed and recommended for some parts of South America and Africa, and because of the current shortage, travellers should contact a clinic ahead of time.

The typhoid fever vaccine is recommended for anyone travelling to the Indian Subcontinent (Afghanistan, India, Nepal Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka) or taking long trips to developing countries, Boraston said.

According to HealthlinkBC, travellers are more likely to be exposed to contaminated food and water in these countries. The vaccine can be taken orally or injected.

Japanese encephalitis vaccine is needed for for parts of Asia, especially if you are travelling to rural destinations between the months of June and October, Boraston said.  HealthlinkBC noted the infection can be spread through mosquitos and infants and the elderly are most at risk.

The meningococcal meningitis is required for anyone travelling to Sub-Saharan Africa.  Boraston also recommends it for anyone travelling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj (you will need to show proof of vaccination). This disease is very dangerous and can be spread through coughing and sneezing (it is contagious). 

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