Don’t forget the hidden cost of holiday vaccinations

So you’ve made a careful budget, saved like crazy, and booked your next overseas holiday, but there could be a hidden cost that may set you back hundreds of dollars.

While COVID dominated our travel plans for a while there, many Aussies may have forgotten they might need other vaccinations to keep them safe while travelling.

And the cost can reach hundreds of dollars if you include boosters. While that sounds like a lot, and could make a serious dent in the budget, the cost if you fall ill in another country could be even worse.

So, what vaccinations do you need?

Even if you aren’t travelling, the government recommends booster shots for tetanus if you are aged 50 or over, whooping cough if you are 65 or older and diphtheria. Boosters are also recommended to be administered every 10 years for travellers to countries where health services are difficult to access.

Travel medicine specialist Travelvax recommends the 10-year time frame be reduced to every five years for travellers who enjoy high-risk activities such as mountaineering and off-track bike riding in areas remote from good-quality medical care. 

You people who believe ordering a second poolside drink is risky are safe.

The bad news is, in most circumstances, adult boosters are not free under Medicare and you can expect to pay a minimum of $50, depending on the booster and your healthcare provider.

The good news is that there is a variety of healthcare providers happy to jab you for boosters including pharmacies, local council clinics, specialist travel clinics and your regular GP.

Check out your state and territory’s schedule for what’s free and what’s not here.

Before you go

While there is loads of advice online about what vaccinations you need before you head overseas, your doctor is your best source of information on what vaccinations you will need.

If you can access a specialist travel healthcare provider, even better. There are several travel clinics in most capital cities. Many multi-doctor clinics also usually have one doctor who specialises in travel medicine.

Now, as to the cost. It’s not looking good if you want to travel to an Australian favourite such as Bali or South-East Asia.

Travel Medicine Alliance spokeswoman Dr Deb Mills said people who hadn’t travelled in a while or ever before should expect to pay hundreds for vaccines.

“Everyone should have their routine vaccines up to date and some people are not up to date, even though they think they are,” Dr Mills told SBS News.

“If someone’s only ever had their childhood vaccines, then they’re going to need a lot more than someone who’s travelled before to countries where there’s the kind of risk they get in Bali [and other parts of Asia],” she said.

For travelling to areas such as Bali, Dr Mills recommended a combined tetanus and hepatitis A jab (between $140-$180), typhoid (about $90), Japanese encephalitis ($300), rabies ($150-$350) and the flu ($20).

Not Hamilton Island

“It’s not just enough to have a few shots. One of the problems is people scoot off to Bali and they do nothing because they think it’s just like going to Hamilton Island but it’s really not,” Dr Mills said. 

“Travel medicine is not just about the vaccines, it’s actually about knowing about stuff. They need to know about Japanese encephalitis so they keep away from mosquitoes, they need to know about rabies so that they keep away from dogs. They need to know if they’re bitten by an animal to wash the wound thoroughly, then they’ve got to go and seek [a] rabies vaccine.”

If you are planning on getting some vaccinations before your next trip, RMIT’s MedicalHub recommends informing your doctor of:

  • Your immunisation history
  • Your itinerary
  • Dates you are travelling
  • Any challenging or out-of-the-way places you may be staying
  • And any special activities such as skiing, surfing or hiking for extended periods of time.

Have you ever had a vaccination before travelling? How much did it cost? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Don’t follow this dangerous online trend for your medications

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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