Travellers' vaccinations

Travellers' vaccinations

Each vaccine protects you from a specific illness, resulting from contamination by a germ (bacteria or virus). Getting vaccinated is a way to protect you and to protect others from possible contamination.

Vaccines have a triple purpose:

  • They protect individuals against serious, disabling and sometimes fatal illnesses

  • They preserve collective health (by avoiding contagion at the origin of all epidemics)

  • They help to eradicate illnesses (ex: smallpox).

Two types of vaccines exist: inactivated vaccines contain dead germs or particles of inactive germs that present no risk whatsoever (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, the Flu, Whooping Cough, Rabies, Meningococcus); on the other hand, some vaccines contain living germs that are inoffensive. These vaccines (Measles-German Measles-Mumps, BCG (Tuberculosis), Chickenpox, Yellow Fever) are carefully monitored and are not advised in certain situations.

You can get most vaccinations from your local doctor or travel clinic.

Vaccinations can sometimes provoke minor, harmless reactions. Redness, pain, local reactions where the vaccine was injected, but feverish episodes are also possible. Local infections or convulsions due to high fevers are rare. Sometimes, vaccinations can cause joint pain, skin rashes and headaches.

These minor inconveniences are incomparable to the seriousness of the illness that could be contracted were one not to have the vaccination. More serious accidents due to vaccinations are possible but extremely rare. Severe infections, allergic shock and paralysis have been cited in exceptional occasions. These incidences do not affect the absolute necessity to get the appropriate vaccinations before travelling, but rather indicate that it is important for some people to take certain precautionary measures.

It is therefore very important to respect the vaccines’ contra-indications. Vaccinations can be administered if you have a cold or fever. Certain more serious infections will simply require that the vaccination is administered a bit later (and one’s travel plans should probably be postponed as well). Being pregnant is also a concern when getting vaccinated. Consult your doctor regarding any possible risks.

If you are taking anti-coagulants, suffer from any kind of immune deficiency, or from a progressive neurological disorder, or if you tend to have serious allergic reactions, your doctor may very well advise you to take some precautionary measures, or even forbid you from receiving certain vaccinations. Before you leave, he/she must provide you with a certificate indicating this, without mentioning the reasons why.

It is important to be aware of the recommended vaccination calendar according to your home country’s health policy. Contact your doctor regularly so that he can help keep your vaccination booklet up to date.

The traveller is exposed to nearly all infectious risks that exist in one’s home country but is also exposed to specific risks existing in the intended country of destination and according to the type of intended travel.

Making travel plans presents an opportunity to review your and your children’s vaccination history and coverage with your local doctor. Certain booster shots can be given at this time; other additional vaccinations might also be required. Make your doctor appointments well in advance (at least two months before leaving) because most vaccinations only become effective several weeks after the injection, and some require several injections spread over time.

Be sure to check with your doctor and/or local health authorities regarding all obligatory vaccinations when leaving your country of origin. These requirements may differ slightly depending on where you live and where your final travel destination may be.

Whatever vaccinations are not obligatory are in fact “recommended”. These recommendations are strongly advised and it is best to speak with your doctor about each one individually.

  • Yellow Fever: Regardless of whether or not it is obligatory, this vaccination is strongly recommended for all travellers planning to visit Western and Central Africa or the Amazon region.

  • Polio: Check with your doctor about polio boosters. In many countries, they are recommended every 10 years.

  • Tetanus: Check with your doctor. Tetanus boosters are often given every 10 years and are essential, even for those who do not travel.

  • Diphtheria: Check with your doctor. Most boosters are given every 10 years.

  • Hepatitis A: This vaccination is recommended for children over one year old and for adults under 50 who are travelling to developing countries. For adults over 50, is it advisable to verify their blood condition and immune system before vaccinating them.

  • Hepatitis B: Recommended for all people at risk, medical personnel and those who are required to spend long periods of time in developing countries.

  • Typhoid Fever: Recommended for all people who plan on spending long periods in high-risk areas (rural India, Africa, Latin America) and immigrant peoples originally from these countries/regions who are returning on holiday to visit their families.

  • Meningococcal meningitis: The A+C+Y+W135 vaccine is recommended for all people planning an extended stay in risk areas (pilgrimage to Mecca, Burkina Faso, Niger). An A+C and a specific anti-C vaccine also exist.

  • Japanese Encephalitis: Recommended for all those travelling for more than four weeks in rural Asia during epidemic periods.

  • Tick Encephalitis: Recommended for all those travelling to Central and Eastern Europe and to Eurasia during high-risk periods (April – October).

  • Rabies: This vaccine is recommended for all walkers and hikers and for those who are exposed to the viral disease via their professions.

  • Cholera: The Cholera vaccination will be evaluated case by case during your consultation with an accredited Cholera centre.