It’s the news we’ve been waiting for since March. At 06:01 GMT on the 8 December 2020 in University Hospital, Coventry, United Kingdom, 90-year old Margaret Keenan became the first person to be given the ground-breaking Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
It is hoped that this vaccine, along with numerous others in development, will finally bring the pandemic to an end. This will allow us to get back to normal. A return to travelling, going to sports and music events and hugging our loved ones. Today feels like a momentous day in our battle against the virus. It is also a testament to the wonderful work of scientists around the world. Their diligent efforts have led to the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine. In honour of what is being dubbed V-day, we thought we’d have a look at some of the other vaccines that are recommended to travellers exploring far-flung corners of the world.
A note about vaccines
It is important that you get any vaccines you need for travel around eight weeks before you depart (though this varies by vaccine). This gives your body plenty of time to create antibodies, giving you full or near-full immunization. Some vaccines require more than one jab for full protection. Others require booster top-ups every few years. Some, however, give instant lifelong protection. Always speak to your doctor or healthcare provider before travelling, to see what vaccinations are recommended. Read on to discover some of the most common vaccines to take before travel.
Infected mosquitos are responsible for the spread of yellow fever. Symptoms include fever, headaches, nausea and muscle pain, with one in four patients suffering from more serious symptoms. These can include jaundice and vomiting blood. Luckily, an effective vaccine can prevent infection, allowing you to explore safely.
Many destinations don’t let travellers into the country without a yellow fever vaccination. A minimum of 10 days is required between vaccination and travel, but the earlier you get inoculated, the better. Yellow fever is prevalent in many parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Central America and parts of the Caribbean. As the vaccine has been developed and made more effective over time, a yellow fever certificate is now valid for life, with the vaccine offering full protection.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection which can be spread through blood and bodily fluids. It rarely causes symptoms in adults but can cause severe liver damage in children. Occasionally, adults may report flu-like symptoms and stomach pain. These symptoms can last for months, so vaccination is a much safer option.
Infants in the UK have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B since 2017. Older adults, on the other hand, are unlikely to have been vaccinated during childhood. This makes the Hepatitis B vaccine an important one if planning travel abroad. The disease is particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa, east and southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Three jabs are administered at intervals to protect against Hepatitis B. The first jab should be taken around 16 weeks before travel, and your healthcare provider will be able to talk you through the full schedule.
Typhoid is extremely dangerous and can be fatal without prompt treatment, although this is rare. The disease is caused by a bacteria similar to that which causes salmonella food poisoning. It normally spreads through contaminated food or water. Typhoid has been virtually eradicated in Europe and the developed world, but remains common across the Indian Subcontinent, with prevalence across Asia, Africa and South America as well. Symptoms can include a high fever, constipation and a cough. In rare cases, symptoms worsen over time if left untreated.
A successful typhoid vaccination has been available for a number of years. Inoculation is normally provided with a single vaccination. It doesn’t offer complete protection, so it is important to take steps to reduce your risk of infection. Precautions would include only drinking bottled water and avoiding fresh salads and uncooked meat when dining in countries where the disease is prevalent. Typhoid vaccination is free on the NHS for UK citizens.
Cholera infection is rare, thanks to successful vaccination and treatment programs around the world. Outbreaks occur most often in the tropics – particularly South America, Asia and Africa. Like typhoid, it most often spreads through food and water. When travelling to affected areas, similar precautions should be taken. The most common symptom of cholera is severe diarrhoea.
UK citizens can get the cholera vaccine for free on the NHS. However, most people don’t really need it unless travelling to remote destinations or an area experiencing an outbreak. Your healthcare provider will be able to recommend whether or not you need the vaccine. Unlike many inoculations, the cholera vaccine is provided in a drink. Adults are given two doses between one and six weeks apart, with protection lasting for two years. Plenty of time to discover far-flung locations! Repeat vaccination can be provided when protection has expired.
Rabies is a very rare but extremely serious condition affecting the nerves and brain. It is usually transmitted when a person is bitten or scratched by an infected animal, such as a dog. The disease is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, which is why a vaccine is so crucial. The rabies vaccination doesn’t prevent infection, but it delays the onset of symptoms. This gives patients critical time to get medical help. Prompt treatment is usually 100% effective. If you come into contact with a possibly rabid animal, it is critical that you seek immediate medical help. DO NOT wait until you get home.
You will most likely have to pay for the rabies vaccine. However, it is one of the most important ones to have if you are travelling to Asia, Africa, Central or South America. The rabies injection is given in three doses over a 28-day period and boosters are recommended if you are travelling to a high risk area again, a year or more after your vaccination. It is important to note that there may be some minor side effects to the vaccine. These can include a sore arm and in rare cases, headaches, nausea and muscle aches. Yet these are significantly less harmful than catching rabies itself.
A return to normal
Today’s wonderful news regarding a COVID-19 vaccine hopefully marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic. This means our attention can finally begin to turn back to the things we love doing, namely travel. Vaccinations are a contentious topic in today’s society, but the simple fact is that they protect people from a range of dangerous illnesses. The best advice you can take from this article is to talk to your healthcare provider before any overseas travel. This way, you can ensure you are protected against any dangerous illnesses in the destination you’re heading to.