Travel SOS: Which vaccinations do you need?

Leon is travelling to Vietnam and wants to know which vaccinations he needs.

Travel SOS: 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 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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    24th Feb 2018
    Travel vaccinations are not cheap and they are a bit of a nuisance. PLEASE HAVE THEM. Without them you could end up being really ill very far away from any medical help, ruining your own trip, let alone the trips of any fellow travellers. Even if you do not get ill yourself, if there is an outbreak of cholera or whatever, you may be confined to an area for some time to stop the disease from spreading.

    It does not matter how careful you are about drinking only bottled water and following all the advice about food, there are still many chances you could get infected. I discovered in East Malaysia that when I had fruit juice, made with peeled fresh fruit, the ice that went into the drink had been made from tap water, and that the straw given me had been used before, just wiped over and popped into my glass.
    24th Feb 2018
    Yes, definitely have the correct vaccinations for the country you are visiting. For many years I escorted groups from Australia to Egypt and always advised this, as well as only drinking bottled water, cleaning your teeth with bottled water and never having ice in a drink.
    Here's another tip I practised regularly. The constant exchange of money at the markets and stalls in the streets could easily be another way of passing on diseases so I used antiseptic wipes and washing my hands regularly with an antiseptic soap/gel.
    24th Feb 2018
    Anyone considering ANY "Vaccination" should first ask for the insert provided with the vaccination. This will list all the side effects, many of which may even cause death. Then make enquiries on the actual safety and effectiveness of both the vaccination and the supposed "Boosters". Once you have all this in hand you can make a sensible decision.
    24th Feb 2018
    I travel overseas every 3-4 months of the year and never had vaccinations. I have just returned from Cuba and I am currently in the Philippines. Have travelled all over the Americas and Asia China and only ever been stung on the face by a wasp.

    No need for vacs. Unless u frequent undesirable places.
    24th Feb 2018
    We needed Yellow Fever vacs for Brazil and I would not consider that an undesirable destination. Also lots of places in Africa need more vacs. As for ROB above if you read the pamphlet of every prescription about side effects you will simply not take the tablet,
    most of them mention possible death at the end just to save their butts.
    24th Feb 2018
    Exactly Cowboy Jim, That is the reason we avoid vaccinations like the plague, probably also being in mid 70s, the reason that we do not need any medication, do not have any mobility issues, never suffer with flu or any virus despite regularly being in many countries and live and look like we are years younger. By the way most of our friends regularly have the flu vaccinations and most of the overseas vaccinations. They are the ones sick all the time and often lose the benefit of the holiday or travel because they are too ill,
    25th Feb 2018
    ROB I totally agree with you and although we don't travel, we have never had the flu vaccine despite previous bullying tactics from ex employers for us to join the sheep that had them. And (touch wood) everyone else who have the vaccines are sick and we miss out! Good on you!
    24th Feb 2018
    Tips for my safe travels are basic common sense. Not based on media or government hysteria which is intended to scare the crap out of you.

    Don't travel in groups.

    Don't do cruise boats.

    Don't eat street food.

    Buy fresh food from a market that has a skin on it. Banana, Papaya, Mango, Watermelon etc.

    Don't drink tap water or anything that isn't from a sealed bottle.

    Use bottled water to brush your teeth.

    Don't accept your local guide recommendation for food or drink. Always insist on a recent recommendation from a good online source.

    Don't frequent seedy backstreet locations.

    Don't touch the wildlife.

    Plan your trips well in advance using recent traveller online recommendations.

    The world is a relatively safe place to travel now with modern technology and communications. Any serious outbreak makes news headlines in minutes. Stay away until the location is given the all clear.

    If you are frail, hesitant or suffer from everything that could possibly affect you then probably best you stay home.
    25th Feb 2018
    Plan your trips well in advance using RECENT traveller recommendations? That's a bit of a contradiction is it not? Things change overnight you know!

    If you read the instructions/information pamphlet enclosed with any medication you will find a horror story enough to put you off most of the stuff many of us take every day!
    24th Feb 2018
    I agree with those who say have the vaccinations. However I would reconsider the rabies shots. These are really only necessary if you are going to get up close with animals for example as a volunteer animal worker where the potential for being bitten is high. Whether you have the vaccination or not the treatment us the same and shirt time frames apply. If you are in the middle of nowhere this can seriously affect the outcome.

    Other than rabies which us easy to avoid anyway - leave the animals alone including the stray dogs - food and enter borne infections are harder to totally avoid. Being vaccinated gives you peace of mind that unwitting infection is unlikely. And you won't being back any excess baggage to share on the and and your neighbourhood.

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