Preparation is key when it comes to planning your gap year travels. You may have flights, accommodation and trekking routes planned, but one thing that should be on your ever increasing ‘to-do list’ is getting vaccinated. Vaccines prepare your immune system and enable your body to fight off deadly foreign pathogens quickly and efficiently. When it comes to vaccines, you don’t want to mess about. Your health should be your first concern.
Read on for the top questions gap year students ask regarding vaccinations…
1) Do I really need vaccinations?
If you’re planning a trip based in Western Europe, Australia, the US or Canada you probably won’t need immunizations. However, for nearly everywhere else, you’re going to want some protection. Not only are travel vaccinations important for your own health but they also help manage the transmission rate of certain infectious diseases. You may even need an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (IVCP) before you gain entry to some tropical countries, in which case, vaccinations aren’t a choice. The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) will have up-to-date information about what vaccinations you will need for the country you’ll be travelling to.
2) When should I start preparing everything?
Procrastinators beware! If you’re planning a trip abroad, you’ll need to book your clinic visits around two months before you leave. When it comes to vaccinations, leaving it until the last minute just isn’t an option. The vaccine will need some time to work before you are fully protected and for that reason, some shots need to be given at least six weeks before you leave and you may need repeat visits.
3) Are vaccinations available on the NHS?
Not all vaccinations are available at NHS clinics in the UK or your local health authority and even if they are, they aren’t necessarily free. When you know what you need, shop around your local NHS and private travel clinics to see who offers what and compare their prices although prices at your GP are generally cheaper than private clinics. It’s always wise to start your enquiries with your local GP as they will not only be able to give you information on what jabs you need (and where to get them from if they can’t administer them), but they will also be able to check your UK shots are up-to-date and give you a booster if needed, and often free of charge.
4) What information should I bring to the clinic?
When getting advice from a clinic it’s best to be as thorough as possible. You should tell them:
• Where and when you plan on travelling – different diseases are prevalent in different areas and peak certain times of the year.
• Where you will be staying – backpacking in hostels and camping in rural areas increase your chance of getting diseases compared to 5* hotels.
• What you will be doing – aid workers and those in medical settings will be exposed to more pathogens. Doctors and nurses often require additional vaccines.
• If you will be working with animals – diseased animals can spread some deadly diseases, such as rabies.
5) If I take all the required vaccinations, does that mean I’m protected from getting ill abroad?
Unfortunately not, vaccinations are disease specific and will equip your body with the right tools to fight off infections from certain pathogens only. You should still take the right precautions to ensure you don’t get ill from contaminated food and water and disease carrying animals and insects. Stay smart and stay health conscious.