Increasing globalisation means that more of us are travelling further afield than ever before. Many of these journeys are to developing and emerging markets, which can present significant medical risks.
Add in the approach of the winter holidays and the propensity to book long-haul flights, often to unfamiliar destinations. Each day at International SOS, our 27 global assistance centres take thousands of calls from our members seeking travel advice. A frequent topic this time of year is how to thwart health risks.
Extra vigilance, pre-travel education and advance vaccination planning can go a long way towards preserving wellness. From a corporate health perspective, companies that assign employees to work in locations with endemic health risks or that have employees performing safety-sensitive jobs, must take a consistent, protective approach to reduce instances of sickness and injury.
In such cases, advance planning is crucial to minimise potential medical threats associated with travelling and vaccination scheduling is a big part of the process. It is recommended that travellers should start scheduling their vaccinations at least six to eight weeks in advance, as some inoculations, such as those for hepatitis A and B, and typhoid fever, require multiple doses to be effective.
Doing your homework before a trip is a great way to prepare and help protect your health. In addition, it’s worth considering the following advice on vaccinations to help travellers be savvier:
Contact a travel health specialist –The latest disease outbreaks and vaccine requirements worldwide can change quickly. Seek advice from a travel health specialist whose job it is to stay informed on the risks associated with different destinations. These professionals have the most current information on new outbreaks of infectious disease in different countries (and areas within countries), and can provide clear guidance on how to prepare for potential health risks.
Know your vaccine categories – When travellers are considering vaccinations they are often unaware that these are split into three categories. The first relates to those vaccines that are “required” to enter a particular country. Yellow fever is the most common required vaccine. For these vaccinations, it is compulsory that travellers show a vaccination booklet proving they have obtained the appropriate inoculations. If you do not have a required vaccine, you may be refused entry into the country or offered the vaccine on arrival. However, it is not advisable to have a vaccine administered by a health provider with which you are unfamiliar.
The secondary category of vaccines is “recommended”. These help keep you as safe as possible, but are not compulsory for country entry. Vaccines for Japanese encephalitis, rabies, typhoid and polio are examples in this category. These and other serious diseases may be more common in your destination than they are at home, and “recommended” vaccinations can help you avoid infection.
The third category comprises routine vaccinations – these are the one you are given as a child or receive on a regular basis as an adult. Vaccines for measles-mumps-rubella, varicella (chicken pox), influenza and tetanus are part of this classification. Routine vaccinations should be up-to-date before you travel to any destination.
Know what specific vaccinations you need for the country you are visiting – Both “required” and “recommended” vaccinations differ country by country, and sometimes change if there is an outbreak of a particular disease. Our corporate members can access individual Country Guides that state, on a nation-by-nation basis, the specific vaccinations you should consider. For example, hepatitis A is usually recommended for every traveller regardless of their destination, whilst rabies and typhoid vaccines are only advised for certain countries. Also important to remember is that not all illnesses are preventable via vaccination, for example malaria and giardiasis. Our Country Guides provide additional education on what you can do to avoid infection.
When booking a trip to a new destination, mitigating medical risk should be among your first thoughts along with arranging transport and choosing a hotel room. Making sure that you talk to a travel health specialist and obtain the correct jabs well in advance is absolutely key in order for your trip to go smoothly.