Vaccines for Travel to Southeast Asia

When you are traveling overseas for a long period of time, you may need to get vaccines. Before this extended journey four months abroad, the longest I was out of the States was usually about two to three weeks. So I never got vaccines before. Short trips are not as much of a concern, or if you are not staying in the country overnight, for instance if you are traveling on a cruise ship. I did a month-long cruise through the Mediterranean to Egypt, Greece, Rome and a few other stops. Since we only had day excursions in these countries, but slept on the ship and mainly ate their food, we did not get vaccines. However, if you are going to live in a country, you would want to do it.

The most up-to-date information for where you will be traveling will be on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site. They have updated info on any outbreaks and what vaccines to get. Check your health insurance to see if it’s covered as some shots can get pretty expensive. Unfortunately, my insurance did not cover any of them. Since I wasn’t getting coverage, I decided to go to the health center. After calling, I found out some are free. So you might as well save some money.

I have not had any vaccines since childhood. They said to bring papers of all shots you’ve had previously, well my last ones were most likely 30 years ago. So they just assumed I had all the required vaccines for public schools in the states.

Since I was visiting countries in Southeast Asia, I was recommended to get hepatitis A & B, typhoid, and update my tetanus. Hepatitis A was free. Everything else with the consultation came to about $250. They also suggested malaria and Japanese encephalitis.  But malaria needed a doctor’s prescription (since it’s a series of pills), and I just didn’t have time before I left to see my doctor. They did not carry Japanese encephalitis and heard it was super expensive to get in the States, so I didn’t do that one either.

Some of my travel mates said they were going to wait until they arrived in Hanoi to get their vaccines because it can be much cheaper than in the States. However, the only problem is that most vaccines need an incubation period to get into your system. I was late on getting mine and that was two weeks before I left. I tried going a month ahead of my departure date, but I went to a 3rd-party travel company and, after waiting an hour, they basically blew off my appointment. It was supposed to be a concierge service—not so much. So I walked out and called the health department. It took a lot longer to get the appointment, but it was much cheaper and they were very nice and helpful.

The hepatitis A & B vaccines needed two rounds. I was leaving before I could get the second round. They told me to just to come back as soon as I returned from my trip. So I should be good. However, it would have been better to get there sooner to complete the rounds.

They did not recommend flu shots because she said they cannot determine the string of cold or flu viruses abroad so it wouldn’t matter. In hindsight, I probably should have gotten one to avoid getting sick in the States before I left. I had a short family cruise three weeks before my trip. Two days before leaving, I didn’t feel well. I took lots of vitamins and cold meds and was able to kick it quickly. The rest of my family was not so lucky. Mom, dad and my brother all got super sick for about two weeks after the cruise. I somehow escaped that fate. Thank goodness because I would have never had the energy to finish preparing for this trip if I had the flu. I was lucky—better to be prepared!

The Nomad Publisher

**UPDATE** I have been living in Hanoi for 12 days now and mosquitoes are just a way of life here. I freaked out the first night I arrived in my apartment and it was infested with mosquitoes. Since I didn’t get the pills from my doctor, I thought I was going to die of malaria before I even unpacked my suitcase. Good to know, 12 days in, I’m still alive! The chance of malaria in Hanoi is very small. The health department lady just scared the crap out of me and basically said to sleep under a mosquito net. Other than them being super annoying, I’ve probably been bit a dozen times already and had no issues.

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