While travelling can be an incredible experience, it is important to prioritise your health and safety while abroad. One key aspect of travel health is ensuring you’re up-to-date with recommended vaccinations. Here, we’ll explore (pardon the pun) everything you need to know about travel vaccinations, including how long before travel to get vaccinated, who recommends vaccines for travel, and where to go for travel vaccines.
Travel Shots: Protecting Yourself Abroad
If you’re planning on visiting certain parts of the world, you may need to get vaccinations and/or anti-malaria tablets before you pack your bags and set off.
While the childhood vaccination programme in Ireland protects you from a number of diseases, you will need extra vaccinations if you’re planning to visit certain parts of the world. These travel vaccinations help prevent many serious diseases that we normally don’t have in Ireland and so, we wouldn’t normally be exposed to. If you are travelling to areas outside of Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, you will need to look into additional vaccinations.
Which travel vaccinations you need will depend on your specific travel plans, for instance, your travel destination and what activities you plan to do will affect the vaccinations that you will need. This is because travelling to developing countries, especially rural areas, can mean you’re exposed to more diseases and therefore, you’ll need additional protection.
Likewise, your general health plays a role in what vaccinations will be recommended. If you have a chronic illness or weakened immune system or if you’re pregnant, you might need additional vaccines.
Your vaccination history is also important. You may have already had some of the vaccines that are recommended, or just require a booster dose. It is important that your childhood immunisations and routine vaccinations (such as influenza and COVID-19) are up-to-date (you can check these with your local GP). Whilst some diseases, such as measles and diphtheria, are rare in Ireland, they are more common in other countries.
Which Travel Vaccinations Do I Need?
We can categorise travel vaccinations into three categories:
- Required (a legal requirement for entering a country)
- Optional (the disease is present in the country but the risk of transmission may be low).
Here are some of the most popular travel destinations and the vaccines that you might need. For specific advice about the country that you are travelling to click here.
It’s important to note that while travel vaccinations can offer some protection against travel-related diseases, they will not provide 100% protection. Because of this, it’s important to take general precautions to reduce your risk of exposure while you’re exploring a new country.
We recommend doing some research on general travel advice before you set off to make sure you’re well prepared.
How Long Before Travel Should You Get Vaccinated?
The timing of your vaccinations is important when it comes to travel. Some travel vaccinations require multiple doses and take a few weeks to become effective. Therefore, many common vaccinations need to be given at least 4-6 weeks before you set off.
We recommend arranging a travel health assessment at least 4 weeks before your planned trip. This will give you plenty of time to complete most routine recommended vaccination courses. It’s important to note that in some cases, your vaccinations may not be in stock and your doctor or pharmacists may need to order them in, which could take several days. To make sure you’re protected on your travels, it’s important to start the process early!
How Do I Get Vaccinations for Travel?
Once you have decided on your travel plans, you should start looking into the vaccinations that you may need. If you were to Google “where to get vaccinations for international travel?”, we’re sure you’ll get a lot of results back – some legitimate sources of information, some… not so much.
Therefore, we recommend sticking with reliable and trusted sources of information, such as this resource from the NHS. To use this resource, select the country that you’re travelling to and follow the instructions to find the region that is relevant to you.
In addition to online resources, you can also contact your local GP or travel medicine clinic for travel health advice including vaccine recommendations. Alternatively, you can use Webdoctor.ie’s convenient online Travel Health Assessment service!
Through this service, you can fill in an online assessment form using your phone, tablet or laptop. Then, one of our Irish-registered doctors will review your assessment and recommend vaccinations for you to consider. As we mentioned, there are many different factors to take into consideration when planning your travel vaccinations. Therefore, it can be quite tricky! With this service, our doctors tailor their recommendations to you, your destination, and your needs.
If you’re happy with your travel vaccination recommendations, we will then send your prescription for these vaccinations to a participating pharmacy of your choice. We’ll also provide a contact phone number or link to book your appointment online, so you can have your vaccinations administered at a time and place that works for you!
Please note: You will need to make a payment for the vaccinations directly to the pharmacy when attending your appointment.
Do I Need Anti-Malaria Treatment?
When preparing for your next adventure, you may need to consider anti-malaria treatments as malaria is widespread across tropical and subtropical areas. Malaria is an infection that mosquitoes carry and it is passed to humans when they are bitten by mosquitos. Symptoms can develop very quickly and without prompt treatment, malaria can be fatal. Therefore, it is extremely important to prepare before you set out on your travels.
While there is no vaccination against malaria, you can protect yourself by taking prophylactic medication. You can also take measures to reduce the risk of mosquito bites.
You may need to consider taking anti-malaria tablets if you are travelling to the following destinations:
- Central/South America & Caribbean
- Central/South Asia
- South-East Asia
There are different types of anti-malaria treatments available. The type of medication used will depend on where you’re travelling to, how long you’re staying there, and your medical history.
Just like travel vaccinations, we can assess your need for anti-malaria treatment through our Travel Health Assessment service. Through this service, our doctors can provide tailored advice on anti-malaria treatments based on your travel needs, destination, and your health history.
How to Reduce Exposure to Mosquitos
Mosquito bites are not only itchy and irritating, but they’re also potentially very dangerous. While you can take anti-malaria medications when travelling, these should always be used in conjunction with measures to prevent mosquito bites. Here are some things that you can do:
- Mosquitos tend to come out after sunset. So you can avoid bites by wearing long-sleeved clothes and long trousers when out and about.
- Spray an insecticide, such as Permethrin, on your clothes as mosquitoes can bite through thin layers of clothing. You should avoid spraying insecticides directly onto the skin.
- For areas of skin that are exposed, you should use an insect repellent (ideally one that contains DEET).
- Spray pesticides around your room, especially beneath bedside lockers and other bedroom furniture. You can also burn pyrethroid coils and heat insecticide-coated tablets to help repel mosquitoes.
- If your room does not have insect screens, we recommend keeping the windows closed.
- When sleeping, you should use a mosquito net. Pro tip: Spray insecticide on the net for an extra layer of protection!
Whilst researching different measures to reduce mosquito bites, you may see sources recommending vitamin B or garlic. Likewise, you may also see ultrasound devices for sale to help repel mosquitos. We would recommend saving your time and your money in this case. Vitamin B, garlic and ultrasound devices do not offer protection against mosquito bites. You would be better off investing your money in good quality insecticide, insect repellents and mosquito nets!
Want To Learn More About Travel Health?
To learn more about how our travel health and how our travel vaccination assessment works, you can visit our Travel Health Assessment page.
You can also stay up-to-date with insightful health and wellness content, as well as our new services and offers from Webdoctor.ie, by joining our online community. You can find us on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!