The 13 Most Important Travel Vaccinations

Whether you’re taking some time out in Thailand, volunteering in the jungles of Borneo, or doing a 3-week overland trip in Southern Africa, you will need vaccinations, and you might need to take them much sooner than you think.

Here is the 1st Contact Travel Clinic’s list of the 13 most important travel vaccinations:

1. Diphtheria

Diphtheria is usually contracted by respiratory droplet infection but can also be contracted by articles soiled by infected persons. Skin infection is common on the limbs of children in the tropics who go around barefoot. Vaccinate if you are travelling to sub-Saharan Africa, South America or South East Asia. Get this vaccination around 12 weeks before your departure.

2. Tetanus

Tetanus is a toxin produced by an anaerobe called Clostridium Tetani which causes tetanus. The spores are distributed widely in the environment and infection generally results from these spores entering wounds at the time of injury. Wherever you travel, you will need to show that you have recently been vaccinated against tetanus. Get your shot 12 weeks before your travels.

3. Polio

Polio is predominantly contracted through contaminated food and water, although acute infections may be passed on through the nasopharyngeal droplets. Vaccinate if you are travelling to Africa or the Indian Sub-Continent. Have your shot 12 weeks prior to your departure.

1st Contact Travel Clinic in London provides a single dose vaccine for Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (Revaxis).

4. Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is spread through contaminated food and water, particularly shellfish, or person to person contact where poor hygiene is prevalent. Get your vaccine 2 weeks before your departure to Africa, India, the Americas, Eastern Europe, South East Asia or the Pacific Islands. Side effects can include nausea, fatigue and headaches.

5. Hepatitis B

Present in many parts of the world and endemic in the Pacific regions, Southeast Asia and West Africa. Hepatitis B is passed from person to person via infected body fluid. This can result from injuries where there is blood-blood contact, use of infected medical equipment, from mother to the unborn child and also via sexual transmission. Get vaccinated around 8 weeks before you leave.

6. TB

It is essential that you are vaccinated against TB if you are going to Africa, South America or Tropical Asian-Pacific. Get your shot 12 weeks before you are due to leave.

7. Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is spread via infectious mosquitoes and is present in tropical Africa and South America. The main symptoms are fever, jaundice, haemorrhage and renal failure.

Vaccinate against yellow fever 10 days before leaving for Sub-Saharan Africa or South America. Yellow Fever vaccinations may only be given at registered Yellow Fever Clinics, such as 1st Contact Travel Clinic.

8. Rabies

It’s vital that you are vaccinated against rabies 5 weeks before leaving for Africa, South America or Asia, particularly if you are planning to work with or near animals. Side effects could include muscle aches, vomiting and mild fevers.

9. Typhoid

There is a NATIONAL TYPHOID VACCINE SHORTAGE, but 1st Contact Travel Clinic has stock! Vaccinate 10 days prior to departure to the Indian Sub Continent, Africa, the Americas, the Far East or Eastern Europe.

10. Meningococcal Meningitis

Vaccinate 2-3 weeks before you leave for Africa or Saudi Arabia.

11. Japanese Encephalitis

If travelling to Tropical North East Australia or South Asia, vaccinate 4 weeks prior to departure.

12. Tick-Borne Encephalitis

Vaccinated 12 weeks before leaving (or 2 weeks on an accelerated course) for Far Eastern Europe, China or Japan.

13. Malaria

There is no vaccine against malaria, but there are many anti-malarial drugs which can help to reduce the risk of infection. Take meds around 2 weeks (or as prescribed) before leaving for Africa, Asia or Central or South America.

Things to take into consideration

  • Often, there are some undesirable side-effects to your vaccinations, particularly in the couple of days after taking them. Again, consult your doctor about possible side-effects and should you experience an extreme reaction to a vaccination, seek professional help.
  • Some diseases are more common at certain times of the year, for example during the rainy season and you will probably be more at risk of getting diseases in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • Your risk also increases if you are backpacking and staying in hostels, staying for a long time, ill, frail or elderly, working as an aid worker, working in a medial setting or working with animals.
  • Always speak to your GP before taking medication or having vaccinations if you are or suspect you might be pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding.
  • Many diseases are transmitted through unclean water, so, if in doubt, always drink bottled water and avoid dodgy looking food!

For any travel and vaccine advice, information, services or accessories such as sterile first aid kits, mosquito nets, insect repellents and water purifiers, visit the 1st Contact Travel Clinic, Castlewood House, 77-91 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1DG or call 0800 856 2475.