Why Travel Vaccinations Are Important.

travel health travel vaccinations gap year

Travel vaccinations are an essential part of the gap year and travel planning process, yet every single day thousands of travellers ignore the advice of qualified professionals and don’t get them. But why? Are they really that important?

The short answer to that is yes. And here’s why.

Many backpackers and and gap year travellers head off to far flung, exotic destinations. After all that is half of the point, right? To explore somewhere new, to get out of our comfort zones and experience all the wonders and adventure the world has to offer us. There’s nothing wrong with that.

The problem is, travelling to these exotic destinations exposes us to ‘exotic’ diseases.

There’s no need to panic about this, it doesn’t mean that you are going to encounter some never before heard of alien virus or some tropical flesh eating zombie lurgy, it just means that you will encounter common diseases in the parts of the world you are travelling to that you are extremely unlikely – if ever – going to encounter at home.

This means that because you haven’t been exposed to these diseases naturally before, you will have little or no natural immunity to them.  and that is why vaccines are important. The problem is because these diseases are not common in many Western countries they will not be offered routinely back as part of the normal vaccination schedule because it simply isn’t practical or cost effective.

The difference between routine and travel vaccinations.

This is where travel vaccinations come in. They simply act as reinforcements to your routine vaccination package, and provide you with protection from the diseases you are not yet protected from. It really is that simple.

Travel vaccinations are offered separately from routine vaccinations precisely because they are not routine. The exact vaccinations you will need depend on where you are going, how long for, your past medical history and a variety of other risk factors. It is a good idea to do some research and get a basic understanding of what you need from reputable sources, the  National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website or the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website are great resources. The NHS’ Fit For Travel is also an excellent site for travellers. This is no substitute for qualified advice however, and you will also have to make an appointment at a travel clinic to discuss your specific needs with a specialist nurse, or head to your GP or pharmacist who offer travel clinic services.

The cost.

Travel vaccinations also come at a cost because they are not covered by routine vaccination programmes, and depending on how many you need, the costs can sometimes add up quickly.

It is this extra cost that puts a lot of travellers off getting them, and ‘they are too expensive’ is probably the most common excuse I hear in my own consultations with potential travellers as to why they are hesitant, but I urge each and every one of you to not let the cost influence your decision.

Consider the cost of vaccinations as part of the basic trip expenses alongside your plane ticket and your insurance.

You can’t put a price on your health.

It is a simple fact that many of these diseases such as yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A for example can not only ruin your trip but can have serious long term health complications and in some cases even pose a risk to your life!

The vaccinations exist to protect you from this risk, why would you endanger yourself for a little bit of money?

Now I’m not trying to scaremonger either, it is absolutely true that in the majority of cases the chances of getting some diseases can be quite low.

This is why medical and health professionals have a rigorous system for risk assessment and a grading system for each and every country. The terminology differs slightly depending on which country you come from, but they are always based on which vaccinations are very strongly advised for the diseases with a very high risk factor, the vaccinations that are sometimes recommended for those diseases with a variable risk dependent on individual factors, and those vaccinations which travellers may also consider for those diseases with a low chance of being contracted.

The exact vaccinations you will need for your gap year will differ from person to person. This is why it is essential to get a qualified opinion on your very specific travel plans and individual needs, because the risk does vary from traveller to traveller. To give just one basic example, someone heading to Singapore for a few days of shopping and then head to Sydney for a month or two will be at very low risk of rabies, but the next traveller who wants to go bat spotting in Singapore and then fly off to Bali for a few weeks will be at much higher risk.

The problem is when someone hears ‘low risk’, they assume ‘safe’, and that is not always true. Many travellers assume they can run the risk, not get any vaccinations and be fine.

And that may be true, they may very well be fine. There are of course plenty of people who are not vaccinated and don’t contract any diseases when travelling, the majority in fact. The problem is that the chances of getting certain diseases may be low, but the consequences if you are one of the unlucky ones who do contract certain diseases can potentially be very severe.

This is why protecting yourself with travel vaccinations seems like a no brainer. You buy insurance to protect your fancy new camera and your gear, why not pay to protect your health?

Of course it goes without saying that no one can force you to get yourself vaccinated. It is entirely up to you. As a qualified nurse I always try and give as much impartial and accurate information as I can, it is not up to me what you do with that information and I would never try and force someones decision one way or the other. However, I do urge you all to think very carefully before dismissing any qualified advice and recommendations on what vaccinations to get.

At the end of the day, they are considered an essential part of the travel planning process for a reason.

Did you enjoy this article or find it useful? Remember you can always make an appointment at my online travel clinic if you need any further advice on a one to one basis. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

Related Articldes

Do You Really Need Anti Malarial Medication On Your Gap Year?

My Battle With Dengue Fever In India.

The Ultimate Guide To Travel Vaccinations.

What Vaccinations Do You Need?

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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18 comments on “Why Travel Vaccinations Are Important.
  1. Another great post with seriously important information!

  2. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for this post, I have to admit I am so nervous about getting all my shots and was almost at the point of not getting them at all, and was really confused too, but you’ve put a lot of things in perspective for me. I’m still a bit confused about the shots themselves, but I know now that I will get whichever ones I need. Thank you.

  3. Natalie Keegan says:

    Yes! This! I’ve heard so many backpackers say they have never had vaccinations and they are still fine so no one else needs them too I’ve lost count and it is ridiculous! If people choose not to get them for whatever reason that’s up to them but they should never be telling other people that.

  4. John says:

    So would you recommend getting the full range of vaccinations for a round the world trip?

    • Well John that would completely depend on where you are going, how long for and what you will be doing, among other things. Please go and make an appointment at your GPs, a travel clinic or even my own online travel clinic (in the services section), and you can go through your individual med history and your plans in detail. 🙂

  5. Dr. Sarada Garapati says:

    I stumbled upon your site when doing my own research on the travel health information that is readily available to patients and I have to say I am very impressed. So much so that I had to leave a comment which is something I never do. You are absolutely correct when you say each patient is an individual that will need specific and individual advice based on their own needs, and it is so refreshing to read a site that gives out that message. I see patients on a daily basis who have read so much misinformation and recieved so much bad advice it is a battle to try and clear their minds of that before giving them qualified advice. There are some sites – like your own – that give genuine, helpful and professional advice out there, but unfortunately there is so much bad information too, and there is a real need for more advice like yours to get out into the public domain. Keep up the good work, and I will be recommending to people that they seek your site out.

  6. Emily. says:

    I totally get where you are coming from. I still have just over six months until I go on my gap year (so excited!) and thanks to some of your previous posts and advice I am starting to make appointments now to see about which vaccinations I need and start to get them. Thank you.

  7. Craig Holden says:

    Such a good post. It is so refreshing to see the facts stated in plain English without a lot of confusing medical speak or bull**** rumour. Good job.

  8. Gemma McConnel says:

    I totally agree, it just makes sense to protect yourself if you can. Those who don’t have noone to blame if something happens.

  9. Jessica says:

    Hey, Bemused Backpacker Thank you so much for this article. This post is seriously helpful and just amazing. I wish I had found it a lot sooner!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a published author, qualified nurse and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent 15 years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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