4 questions you must ask about vaccines before you travel

October 16, 2014

Excited about your upcoming trip but not sure if you need shots? Before you travel, here are fourquestions you must ask about vaccines to help protect your health.
Vaccination and travel are inseparable. Sometimes we lose sight of how lucky we are in Canada, where many communicable diseases have been wiped out by vaccination programs. But that isn’t the case in most places around the world. If you travel, you need to have protection against some of the many diseases you could be exposed to when you’re abroad.

If you had a full complement of vaccines several years ago, the protection they offered may have diminished. To reduce the risk of contracting a dangerous—or even deadly—disease or virus, it is important to update your vaccination record before you leave.

1. When should I be vaccinated?

ThePublic HealthAgencyof Canada recommends that you visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks prior to your departure for a foreign country. During this visit, the doctor will:

  • Verify your immunization history.
  • Evaluate your vaccine requirements according to your age, the nature of your trip, and the public health conditions at your destination.
  • Update your vaccines, as required.
  • Give practical information on good hygiene practices and disease prevention.

2. Which diseases will vaccinations help reduce the risk of?

  • Cholera
  • Whooping cough
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Diphtheria
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Typhoid fever
  • Yellow fever
  • Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Mumps
  • Rabies
  • Measles
  • Tetanus
  • Rubella
  • Chicken pox
  • Haemophilus influenzaetypeb (Hib)
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Humanpapillomavirus (HPV)

3. Which vaccines are required or recommended?

When it comes to vaccination and travel, you should get in touch with the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit. ThePublic HealthAgencyof Canada also identifies and evaluates any potential health risks in foreign countries. This information is continually updated and classified according to four risk levels.

  • Level 1: Practise usual precautions.
  • Level 2: Practise special precautions.
  • Level 3: Avoid non-essential travel.
  • Level 4: Avoid all travel.

These assessments are based on several criteria, including hygiene standards, access to food and safe water, and environmental conditions that favor the spread of disease.

4. What if I choose not to get vaccinated?

Some countries require that visitors show proof of vaccination against yellow fever. If you will be visiting such a country, you will need to carry an international certificateofvaccinationor prophylaxis. This type of vaccine is only available in yellow fever vaccination centres designated by the Public HealthAgencyof Canada.

So, before you leave on your trip, make sure you have received all the vaccinations you need. It would be a shame to get sick because of a lack of vigilance on your part. Keep your vaccination record with your passport and make a photocopy that you can take with you on your daily travels.

4 questions you must ask about vaccines before you travel
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