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What vaccinations do I need to travel abroad?


It is important to make sure you are protected from serious diseases whilst visiting other countries. This is because there may be diseases found in other parts of the world that aren't found in the UK. In the UK, the NHS routine immunisation schedule protects you against a number of diseases but does not cover the infectious diseases found overseas. If you dream about travelling the world and seeing new places, you may be worried about contracting various infectious diseases on your travels. Or maybe you travel for work and are concerned about the risks of picking something life-threatening up whilst you're abroad? There is a risk that visiting new countries can expose you to illnesses rarely seen in the UK, but there are a number of ways to protect yourself from catching any nasty bugs or diseases. The main way to protect yourself is to make sure you have had the correct travel vaccines. 


What is a vaccine?


A vaccine, also known as an immunisation or vaccination, is a substance which makes the body produce antibodies against a certain illness or disease. Antibodies use our immune system to protect us from contracting an illness. There are a few ways vaccines are produced, either by using a very small dose of the disease or a synthetic version to make your body have an immune response (and then produce the needed antibodies) without causing the actual illness. In the UK, we have routine immunisations to protect us against various illness including:

  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)

  • The MenACWY vaccine, which protects us against meningitis caused by various types of bacteria

  • BCG vaccination against tuberculosis (TB)

  • A six-in-one vaccine to protect you against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hemophilus influenzae type b and hepatitis B.

It is important to make sure that you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations as well as covered by any travel ones before you leave the UK. Although these vaccinations are excellent at protecting us from various disease, they do not cover us for other diseases we may catch whilst visiting other countries. For this reason, it is important to check what vaccinations you need for the country you are travelling to. We will cover this later on in the article.

Are travel vaccinations safe?


This has been a topic of discussion, particularly in the U.S. in recent news about the safety of vaccinations, particularly in children. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the NHS are both of the stance that vaccinations are the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health, and they prevent up to 3 million deaths worldwide every year.  Vaccine hesitancy has been listed by the WHO as one of their top 10 biggest threats to global health. So this is people that delay or refuse vaccination.

What do I need to know about vaccines?

4 Facts you should know

1. Vaccines protect you and your children from many serious and potentially deadly diseases. They also protect other people in the community by helping to stop the spread of illness to people who are unable to be vaccinated. 2. Vaccines are safety tested for years before being introduced and are constantly monitored for any side effects which may occur. Mild side effects include a bit of a sore arm and you may feel slightly unwell, but these symptoms should pass in a few days. 3. Vaccinations do not cause allergies and evidence suggests vaccinating is safer than not vaccinating. They do not contain ingredients that cause harm in such small amounts, although it is important to speak to your doctor if you have any known allergies such as eggs or gelatine. They do not contain mercury, overload or weaken the immune system and there is no evidence of a link between vaccinations and autism. 4. Vaccines reduce or completely remove some diseases if enough people are vaccinated within the community. They are the best form of protection against disease for you and your family, and it is for this reason that they are recommended, especially when travelling abroad.

When should I get my travel vaccinations?

Ideally, you should make an appointment with your GP or travel clinic at least 8 weeks before you travel. This is because some vaccinations require multiple doses, and your body needs to develop an immunity to the disease you are being vaccinated against before you leave. It is also important to double-check with your GP if you have any pre-existing medical conditions as you could be at greater risk from disease when you are travelling.  Before having your vaccinations, you must make your GP aware if you are pregnant or could be pregnant, if you're breastfeeding, if you have an immune deficiency or auto-immune disorder or if you have any allergies. Alternative immunisations or treatment plans could be arranged for you if any of these apply to you.

Where can I have my travel vaccinations?

Before booking a travel vaccinations appointment, you should call or visit your doctor's surgery to first check that all your routine vaccinations are up to date. If you have had travel vaccinations done before, you should also let your doctor know as you might not need a top-up. To get your travel vaccinations, you can visit an NHS GP, a pharmacy, a private GP clinic or a travel clinic. Some travel vaccinations may be free of charge on the NHS, but many are not, so it is worth checking before you go in case there is a cost involved. In terms of where you would like to go for your vaccinations, the choice is yours!

How much are travel vaccinations?



The amount they cost will depend on the country you're visiting and also which vaccines you require. Some of your vaccinations may be free of charge with the NHS, but some will not. If your local NHS GP is signed up to provide vaccination (immunisation) services (watch out for this, as many GP surgeries are not), then you will be able to have the following vaccinations with them, for free. Polio (given as a combined vaccination including diphtheria and tetanus as well) Typhoid Hepatitis A Cholera These vaccinations are offered with the NHS for free because they protect against diseases thought to represent the greatest risk to public health if they were brought into the UK from abroad. Vaccinations such as Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, meningitis, rabies, tick-borne encephalitis, tuberculosis (TB) and yellow fever will usually be charged, even by the NHS. The cost of these vaccinations depend on the type of vaccine, the number of doses you need, and where you decide to go for your vaccines.  At Vaila Health, we can arrange an appointment for you to have your travel vaccinations done at a time and location that suits you. If you let us know where you're going, we can source the vaccinations and provide a quotation to you. You know what the cost will be before you come in for your appointment.

What else do I need to consider?


When planning your travel vaccinations, it is also important to take the following into account: Your age and overall health - depending on your age and health, you may be more vulnerable to infection than other people. In addition, some vaccines cannot be given to people with certain medical issues or conditions, so this is also worth taking into consideration and checking with a GP. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding - It's unlikely that a vaccine given whilst you're pregnant or breastfeeding will cause any problems for the baby, but it's always best to double-check with your GP before going ahead with any travel vaccinations just to be sure. If you're working as an aid worker - then it's possible that you may come into contact with more diseases than in other circumstances, such as working in a refugee camp, for example. If you're working in a medical setting - if you're a doctor, a nurse or another healthcare worker, you may require additional vaccinations to protect yourself and your patients. If you're having contact with animals - you could be at a higher risk of getting diseases spread by animals, such as rabies for example. If you have an immune deficiency - it may be advised against having travel vaccinations if you have a condition that affects your immune system, such as Lupus or HIV, for example. It is also worth checking if you are currently receiving chemotherapy treatment or have recently had a bone marrow or organ transplant. This is because your immune system can be weaker or temporarily compromised. It is always worth checking with a GP first.  Whether or not you're up-to-date with your routine vaccinations - check with your GP to see if you are up-to-date with all of your routine, NHS vaccinations. These may include hepatitis B, TB, flu and chickenpox.

What travel vaccinations do I need?

To find out which vaccinations you need for your trip the easiest method is to pop us an email on hello@vailahealth.com or give us a call on 0333 577 5999. We will be able to take your age and medical history into account to provide you with a list of the vaccinations you require for your travels. If you would like a rough idea of what vaccinations you may need before you go, the NHS has a comprehensive guide of which vaccinations you may need for your travels and that information can be found here: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home This is a helpful guide, but we always recommend speaking to a GP in addition to this, as they can advise you if there is anything you may not need, or are unable to have due to a current health condition you have.

In summary


To answer the main question; the vaccinations you may need will vary depending on the country you are visiting, your reasons for travel and where you choose to have your vaccinations. Some vaccinations are free with the NHS but may travel vaccinations come at varying costs and the prices can depend on the availability of stock and how many dosages you require. At Vaila, we suggest that you first make sure your routine vaccinations have been carried out. Then you can either research which vaccinations you require and then choose either a private GP, travel clinic or pharmacy to have the vaccinations done. If you choose to have your travel vaccinations done with us, one of our GPs will look into your medical history and advise you which vaccinations you require and which you can choose not to have. We will source the vaccinations for you and advise you of the cost before you come in for your appointment. Feel free to give us a call on 0333 577 5999 to find out more, or email us at hello@vailahealth.com Is there anything you would like to know more about? Have any questions? Feel free to pop us a message! Hannah Vaila Health St Andrews | Perth | Dundee 0333 577 5999 | hello@vailahealth.com

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