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Traveling Overseas May Require Vaccinations — Or Not — It Depends

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When Donald Trump claimed, in the second Republican debate, that vaccines may be linked to autism, he stirred a dispute that began in 1998 and had long been debunked.

Such is the way of the Republican party. Dig up old and discredited arguments. Dust them off and present them as shiny and new.

The approach may not be as harmful when it comes to economic policy, but when it comes to something as potentially life-saving — and life-threatening — as vaccines, then Trump needs to get up-to-date.

The scene of Trump talking about vaccines and autism was unsettlingly familiar.

Many infectious disease specialists have spent their career trying to reveal the lie in the contention that shots can cause severe medical conditions.

A Money Grab?

Years ago, an American traveling overseas would be shown a diagram of where vaccinations were a must. The map designated every country in blue as being one that a visitor must have injections to travel safely.  At the same time, Europeans going overseas were also shown a similar representation.

There were just two differences. On the American’s map, every country was shaded blue except the USA. The European tourist’s guide showed every nation in blue — except Europe.

A conspiracy theorist would enjoy explaining the international drive for inoculations —  when people travel. You may not be a conspiracy theorist but don’t ignore the idea that all travel vaccinations are suggested with something other than health being the top priority.

Travel anywhere requires documentation that the visitor has had their travel vaccinations. Written evidence of immunization can even be drilled down to the level of what region in which a person traveled. For instance, if a person has just visited a nation with a yellow fever concern — which includes much of South America, they may be obligated to show evidence of vaccination before entering another later. It is seldom asked for, except for yellow fever, but sometimes needed.

Vaccine Or Not To Vaccine

Dr. Randall Neustaedter, the author of The Vaccine Guide, offers three simple prerequisites in deciding about travel vaccines: risk, potential vs. likelihood and efficiency.

Risk

Determine which illnesses you may be at risk for in the area you are traveling. Some nations require proof, but most only recommend and don’t require. The latest vaccine recommendations can be found on the official CDC website.

Potential vs. Likelihood

Think about the likelihood of catching an illness compared to possible side effects of a vaccine. While it doesn’t make sense to get an unneeded vaccine, determine if the risks outweigh the shot.

Efficiency

Consider the efficacy rate of the vaccine you’re studying. It’s simple. What can you catch? How likely are you to catch it and what are the side effects?

Neustaedter says Hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever are the three usually considered for travel vaccinations.

Hepatitis A

A viral infection affecting the liver. Rarely fatal and doesn’t cause chronic illness. Commonly acquired by consuming contaminated water, rice or raw foods.

Typhoid

Contracted through water contaminated by sewage. Typhoid is most often acquired in underdeveloped tropical areas of Latin America and Africa.

Yellow Fever

A severe viral disease transmitted between humans via mosquitoes. The sickness is fatal if not treated. Over 100 nations require proof of vaccination for yellow fever below entering — even layovers which last more than twelve hours.

Considerations For Vaccinations Prior To Overseas Travel

Pregnancy

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines should be given during pregnancy irredgardless of the woman’s travel plans. The CDC recommends  vaccinations if f a travel itinerary is fixed and specific regions cannot be avoided. The risks for exposure are often believed to outweigh the risks of vaccination.

Children

Vaccinating children for travel requires serious consideration. When possible, children should complete the routine immunizations of childhood on a regular schedule. Travel at a younger age may demand an accelerated timetable of shots and the CDC says not all travel-related shots are useful in infants.  In fact, some are specifically contraindicated.

Elderly

Vaccines.gov suggests those over 65 often need one or more vaccines, including:

Influenza (Flu)

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Diphtheria

Tetanus


Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pneumococcal disease (Pneumonia)

Compromised Immune System

The CDC Travelers Health site lists what vaccines are recommended based on the destination for those with autoimmune disorders. While most vaccines are made from killed bacteria viruses and are safe, they may be less efficient in persons with abnormal immune systems, leaving them unprotected or not adequately protected.