Your specific vaccination requirements will depend on many factors and will be discussed with the help of the doctor at our clinic. In general terms, vaccinations for travel fall into three broad categories.
1. Routine vaccinations (often given during childhood)
2. Legally-required vaccinations (usually applies to yellow fever but sometimes others)
3. Recommended vaccinations to prevent illness during your trip.
Usually, these vaccines will have been administered during childhood or prior to attending our clinic. Vaccinations in this category include Tetanus, Diphtheria, Chicken Pox (Varicella), Whooping Cough (Pertussis), Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Pneumonia, Influenza and in recent years Hepatitis B. During your consultation, our doctor will assess whether these routine vaccinations are up-to-date or require boosters.
Only a few vaccines are required to fulfil customs requirements throughout the world. The most common vaccination that is required for passage through customs is yellow fever. Our clinic is a World Health Organisation accredited yellow fever vaccination centre. Most of the travellers who attend our clinic who are visiting either Africa or South America will require this vaccine. Once the vaccine has been administered by our staff you will be issued with a special certificate called International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis which you must present when passing through customs if you have visited certain countries. From time to time other vaccinations may be required under special circumstances. Please contact our clinic for the latest updated requirements.
Recommended vaccinations to prevent illness while abroad
Although these vaccinations are not compulsory, they are frequently required to prevent illnesses which may be severe or even fatal. Illnesses like Hepatitis A for instance are very common in unvaccinated international travellers. At the time of your consultation, a doctor will talk with you about your specific risks while abroad of these vaccine-preventable illnesses. The doctor will make a specific recommendation based on your individual itinerary and your past medical and vaccination history. Vaccinations in this category protect against illnesses including Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis, Cholera, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis and Rabies.
Hepatitis A is an extremely common illness in travellers to many countries around the world. Occasional outbreaks occur even in so-called ‘developed’ countries. Although fatalities are rare, the illness is severe and recovery often takes several months. Even on very short trips, Hepatitis A poses a significant risk to travellers. Hepatitis A is normally contracted from poorly prepared food and unsanitary water. The vaccination for Hepatitis A has very few side effects, is extremely effective and provides rapid immunity. A completed course of Hepatitis A vaccination is thought to provide lifelong immunity. Hepatitis A vaccination can be given alone or as a combination with Hepatitis B or Typhoid. Adult and children’s strength vaccines are available. Almost all travellers will require this vaccination before their trip. The doctor at our clinic will discuss the available options to provide effective protection.
Typhoid fever results from an infection involving bacteria called Salmonella. The illness usually occurs as a severe form of gastroenteritis which can become progressive and even fatal. Cases of typhoid are frequently severe and resistance to antibiotic treatment is quite common. Vaccination usually poses few side effects and is recommended for most travellers to developing countries. A completed course of typhoid vaccination provides protection for up to three years. Different formulations of vaccine are available. Typhoid vaccine can be given alone or as part of a combination with Hepatitis A (Vivaxim). An oral Typhoid vaccine is also available.
In contrast to Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B is contracted from the blood or body fluids of other people. Hepatitis B causes severe liver disease in the acute stage but may also result in long term complications including cirrhosis or even liver cancer. Hepatitis B infection is quite common even is industrialised countries. Vaccination against Hepatitis B is strongly advised for travellers who are going ‘off the beaten track’ or travelling for prolonged periods. All travellers who suffer from serious pre-existing medical problems and might require medical treatment should discuss vaccination during their consultation at our clinic. Even on a short trip, the possibility of an event like a traffic accident is a significant possibility. Vaccination against this common illness normally causes few side effects. Several options exist for your vaccination against Hepatitis B which can be given alone or in combination with Hepatitis A (Twinrix). Adult and child formulations are available. A completed course of vaccination is thought to confer life-long immunity.
Yellow fever infection occurs widely throughout tropical Africa and South America. Illness is transmitted though the bite of a particular type of mosquito that occurs in tropical South America and Africa. Proof of vaccination is a requirement for entry to several countries around the globe if you have visited a so-called yellow fever infected country. If you receive this vaccine at our clinic, you will be issued with an official document - The World Health Organisation International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. The vaccination for yellow fever provides a high level of immunity for a period of ten years. The vaccination is usually quite safe but is unsuitable for a small number of individuals. Please tell our doctor if you are pregnant, suffer from immunodeficiency, are allergic to chicken or eggs or have had other vaccinations in the last few weeks. There is a small risk of a serious reaction to this vaccine (about 1:100,000) and so the doctors at our clinic use this vaccine with great care. Usually the vaccine is almost completely painless, works effectively and has almost no side effects.
Meningococcal meningitis causes a sudden onset severe illness which may be rapidly fatal. The illness takes its name because it causes an infection of the lining of the brain called the meninges. Meningococcal Meningitis occurs sporadically in Australia, USA and Western Europe but more severe epidemics occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia. The vaccine most commonly used for travellers protects against multiple strains of Meningitis and provides immunity for up to three years. Vaccination is very safe and normally has very few side effects. The so-called polyvalent vaccine used for most travellers is not normally recommended for young children.
JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS VACCINE
Japanese Encephalitis results from a viral illness which occurs widely throughout many areas of Asia as well as Papua New Guinea. The range of this terrible illness is slowly extending. Most infections occur during the monsoonal months however sporadic cases occur all year round. The illness although rare is often fatal. A high percentage of survivors of Japanese Encephalitis are left with permanent disability due to neurological damage. Vaccination is usually given to travellers to remote areas or planning prolonged trips. The vaccination normally consists of three doses given over a period of about one month. The existing vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis is being phased out and a newer vaccine will be available within the next few years. There is some risk of severe reaction to the current vaccine and so the usage of this vaccine will be clearly explained by the doctor at our clinic. Usually you will require a brief period of observation at the end of your consultation after receiving this vaccine at our clinic. Our doctor will explain that a delayed reaction can occur with this vaccine which can develop up to ten days later.
This fatal illness is transmitted by the bites of mammals including dogs, cats, monkeys and even raccoons. Clinical Rabies is a rapidly progressive disease of the central nervous system which almost always leads to death. A closely related illness occurs in Australian flying foxes sometimes individuals who handle these creatures requires vaccination against Rabies. A Rabies vaccination is often advised prior to trips to many areas of the world where rabies cases occur. Normally the vaccine is used before departure to provide immunity in the event of an animal bite. Sometimes the vaccine is used after a bite as part of the treatment (post-exposure treatment). Rabies vaccination provides effective protection against this serious illness. Normally the course requires three visits to our clinic within about one month.
Post Bite Rabies Treatment – if you are bitten by an animal while overseas you may still need to seek medical attention. Wash the wound out for at least ten minutes with water and soap or apply alcohol. Seek medical attention within 24 hours. Do not have a false sense of security- even if you have received rabies vaccine before your trip you may require booster doses of vaccine at the time of the bite to ensure your protection. If you have not received a course of rabies vaccine still seek help immediately since the vaccine can be effectively used after the animal bite if commenced sufficiently early. Always get reliable medical advice if unsure.
If the bite is a high risk one you will also require Rabies Immune Globulin (RIG) a medical treatment which contains antibodies to the rabies virus. Rabies Immune Globulin provides immediate immunity at the time of a serious bite and limits the spread of the rabies virus. Rabies Immune Globulin is either manufactured from human blood or the serum of horses. RIG is often hard to obtain in many countries and may be extremely expensive. A completed course of rabies vaccine before departure for your trip usually circumvents the need to give Rabies Immune Globulin at the time of the incident.
Cholera is a severe form of diarrhoea that is usually transmitted by contaminated water or food. Epidemics are especially common after natural disasters. Clinical Cholera may result in rapid dehydration and may be fatal if untreated. Dukoral, a pleasant tasting effective oral vaccine is available to prevent most cases of cholera. The oral cholera vaccine also provides some protection against one of the more common forms of traveller’s diarrhoea. Normally the vaccine is taken in two doses 1-6 weeks apart. You can also reduce risk of developing cholera and other diarrhoeal illness by careful attention to safe eating and drinking while abroad.
During your consultation with our doctor we will assess your individual requirements for other vaccines which are not specifically related to travel. In most cases this will involve whether basic childhood vaccines require boosters to enhance immunity. Some of these illnesses are described in the section below.
This illness may occur in all countries around the world. The illness results from the effects of a toxin produced by a specific type bacterium which may contaminate a wound. Clinical tetanus manifests as a distressing paralysing illness which is often fatal. Protection against tetanus should be considered for all travellers and normally lasts about ten years. There are several different formulations of tetanus vaccine which is normally administered as part of a combination with other vaccines.
Many travellers are at risk of developing influenza. The disease can be especially severe in older travellers or in those with pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease or lung disorders. Influenza can also be an especially important issue for corporate travellers who cannot afford significant disruption to their schedule due to severe illness. Although the vaccine only provides immunity for about one year it normally has very few side effects.
This is another bacterial illness which is spread from person to person through coughing. Sporadic cases of diphtheria still sometimes occur in parts of the world especially in tropical areas. The illness results from the effects of a bacterial toxin which produces obstructed breathing and poisons the heart. Boosters are normally given as a combination with other vaccines in a single needle formulation.
Vaccination programs have dramatically halted the spread of this disabling disease. Polio still occurs in several countries commonly visited by travellers. Our clinic doctor will discuss your need to update your Polio immunity. A single booster during adulthood is thought to result in lifelong immunity. Polio can be given alone or as part of a combination with other vaccines.
These viral illnesses continue to infect a large number of individuals from across the globe. An effective combination of these vaccines can be given as a single dose and it provides long-lasting immunity. The vaccine must not be given during pregnancy or to those allergic to eggs or chicken. Individuals with immunodeficiency should also be cautious with this vaccine. If you suffer from any of these conditions you must bring this to the attention of our doctor at the time of consultation. In most individuals, the vaccine can be given safely, effectively and with minimal discomfort. This vaccine also interacts with some other vaccines. If you have had any other vaccines within the last few weeks you should advise our doctor.
Varicella is a viral infection causing in chickenpox during the years of childhood. An infection normally produces long-lasting immunity but the illness may re-activate later in life as shingles. Non-immune individuals often suffer from severe illness if the infection develops later in life. A simple blood test will normally indicate whether or not immunity is present. An effective vaccine is available but it is not suitable for all travellers. Please tell our doctor if you are pregnant, have immune deficiency, are allergic to chicken or eggs or have recently received other vaccines.
Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE)
This viral illness occurs widely throughout many areas of Eastern Europe especially in forested areas where ticks are prevalent. The symptoms of this illness include fever, vomiting, cramping and paralysis. Those most at risk include individuals participating in outdoor activities or working in industries like forestry. The TBE vaccine in unavailable in Australia however our clinic doctor can advise you how the vaccine can be accessed in Europe.