Which vaccinations do you need?

I’m travelling to Vietnam this month and, after being satisfied with some advice from a friend and fellow traveller who told me not to worry about vaccinations, I am concerned that I may need a few shots to protect me from diseases and possibly malaria.

Yes, you can all scorn me for being so lax.

On the other hand, my source is extremely well travelled, and I trust her completely. So, to ease my mind either way, I thought I’d look into it myself.

My main challenge is that I am leaving yesterday (yes, when you read this I will be on my way) and I’m worried that I have left my run a bit late. Turns out, most vaccinations need at least a few weeks to kick in.

After a bit of digging around online, I find the Travelvax website and call 1300 360 164 for some general advice from one of its travel health specialists.

While I wait on hold (which is quite a while) I search the site myself. There are the usual precautionary messages about vaccinations being important for your health and how some are cheap and others expensive so if you’re on a budget you need to prioritise the ones you choose.

Some countries require proof of vaccination against specific diseases, although you’ll need to check the embassy of the country you’re visiting to find out if that applies to you. If you don’t have the required vaccinations, you may be refused entry to that country.

In Australia, we’re lucky to have had vaccinations against diseases such as polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella as part of school and community vaccination programs. However, you may need a booster, depending on your age.

Also, if you have the opportunity to get the government-funded free flu shot, Travelvax recommends having it before you visit most countries.

When travelling anywhere bottled water is recommended, then hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines are recommended. Hepatitis B shots and rabies shots may also be recommended, especially for frequent, high-risk or long-term travellers.

Some of these vaccinations require more than one shot, so it’s advised that you begin the course at least two months from your departure date.

Okay, so in the time I’m on hold I’ve learned that it is important to have vaccinations before you travel, so you can enjoy your holiday without worrying about disease. Of course, you still have to be wary, but the right shots will make your trip a lot less stressful.

I missed the memo on that one. Wish me luck.

Here are some vaccination recommendations from some of the most visited countries.

Indonesia (high-risk location)

  • Recommended: vaccines include Hepatitis A and B, influenza and typhoid

  • Suggested: rabies, Japanese encephalitis and cholera

Thailand (medium to high-risk location)

  • Recommended: Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and influenza

India (high-risk location)

  • Vaccinations are recommended for many of the more prevalent diseases, as well as rabies and Japanese encephalitis

Vietnam (medium-risk location)

  • Recommended: Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and influenza

  • Suggested: Japanese encephalitis and rabies

Cambodia (medium-risk location)

  • Recommended Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and influenza
  • Suggested: Japanese encephalitis

China (medium to high-risk)

  • Recommended: Hepatitis A, influenza and possibly typhoid

  • Suggested (depending on the time of the year): rabies, Japanese and tick-borne encephalitis and cholera

Fiji (medium to high-risk)

  • Recommended: Hepatitis A and B, influenza, plus typhoid for heading outside the usual tourist routes

You should also know that not all diseases are vaccine preventable and you should check smartraveller.com.au to see how you can best protect yourself, depending on the time of the year. You should also keep up to date with all your other immunisations, such as tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and measles.

Have you ever ignored health advice and regretted it later? What is your health routine for preparing for overseas travel?

Related articles:
Are your vaccinations up to date?
Do you need travel vaccinations?
Government spends $31m to fight flu

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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