An Ounce of Prevention

Being several weeks out I figured it was time to get my immunizations for my trip around the World. With my itinerary being anywhere between 25 and 35 countries, I would definitely need a couple shots with yellow fever and malaria being the two big ones. Yellow fever vaccine was required for another reason: as I was planning to travel to South America and I’ve read horror stories of individuals not being allowed into a country and/or quarantined for failure to have proof of yellow fever vaccination. Once I started digging into requirements for each country, things got a bit more complicated.

An excellent resource that I used was the Government of Canada Travel website ( It has a convenient drop down box where you can select which countries you plan to visit and then it pops up with a handy recommendation list of vaccines. Also, via the yellow fever subsection, there was the convenient link that let me find my local Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre. Luckily, the closest one is in my hometown and it’s the only one that serves the entire region! The doctor only saw patients for travel vaccinations on Wednesday mornings as the area is sparsely populated and demand isn’t too high but I managed to book an appointment relatively quickly and this morning was the fated day for my appointment. One thing I was told to bring (other than having to bring cash or cheque for payment – old school!) was a list of countries that I was planning to hit on my trip. I probably should’ve warned them ahead of time.

When I arrived, I was handed a single pager just to list my basic info as well as any medical conditions I might have and also the last time I had certain vaccinations (specifically tetanus, diphtheria, and a couple others). After completing it all, I handed back the form to the receptionist. She did look a bit confused at first as I had not filled in any destination info except the type of places I would be staying (hotels, hostels, and airbnbs/friends). That’s when I handed her the print out of my tentative itinerary which listed all the countries I would definitely visit as well as all the potential places as well. We’re talking 35 countries listed in approximate order of visit.

After calling over the nurse to check it out, they took a copy of it and then led me to one of the patient rooms. The nurse asked a couple questions and then left. I barely had time to glance at a couple of emails when the doctor comes in with this stunned look on his face. He definitely had his work cut out for him as we started going down the list of places I was visiting, at approximately what type of year, urban or rural, length of stay, etc. After some discussion, we finally settled on this list of vaccinations and medications which I’ll have to cart along:

  • Yellow Fever (injection) – Mostly for South America but also some Southeast Asian countries required proof of immunization.
  • Tetanus (injection) – Obvious, prevents disease when scratched.
  • Japanese Encephalitis (injections) – This one was an iffy one but I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t camp out at any point while in Japan.
  • Hepatitis A & B (injections) – Obvious one to get as I’ll definitely be sampling local foods in probably less than stellar conditions in certain countries (Hep A potential) and swimming in pools (Hep B potential).
  • Typhoid (pills) – Apparently they’re raspberry flavoured!
  • Malaria (pills) – Definitely in South America and Southeast Asia. Will be carting about 4 months worth of pills.
  • Influenza (injection) – Always good to have although this year’s immunization isn’t as effective as it should be.
  • MMR booster (injection) – As we weren’t sure if I received this, they decided to nail me with it.
  • Bonus items: antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea and pills to combat altitude sickness – 3-6 regimes for traveler’s diarrhea and about a week’s worth for altitude sickness (Machu Picchu) just in case.

So after a “comforting” discussion about the yellow fever vaccination (“Yeah you have about a 3 in a million chance of dying from it in the next week…”), I was jabbed with four injections today: Yellow Fever, Tetanus, Influenze, and the MMR booster. Hep A&B and Japanese Encephalitis requires a trip to the pharmacy to pick up, so that will be tomorrow’s adventure in pincushioning. However, to be fair, the nurse was fantastic and I could barely feel the injections.  Along with the last two sets of injections I needed to pick up, I was also given a novella’s worth of prescriptions for all the other items.

Overall, the trip to get immunized isn’t anything onerous, and barring any failure of luck due to the yellow fever vaccine, it is mostly a painless process. I definitely recommend contacting your physician early to ensure you set up all the vaccinations you need for your travels because there’s nothing worse than a trip cut short due to an irritating infection or a disease that could’ve been prevented before departure. Well, perhaps a trip cut short due to multiple organ failure and bleeding from various pores (no, not thinking about that yellow fever at all, nope).

Categories: Health, Travel

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