How to get the best, cheapest travel immunisations

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shutterstock_94301818Tips to protect your budget as well as your health, by Ben West

One glance at a travel health clinic price list can make you wince more than the injections themselves. The recommended vaccinations, especially for many African countries, can cost nearly as much as the flights!

For example, one UK travel health clinic charges £89.00 per dose for Japanese encephalitis immunisation alone, and as two or more doses may be required, you can see how it soon adds up.

However, you can reduce costs significantly by doing a little research and shopping around. With the many other things you need to organise for your upcoming African holiday, it’s tempting to just turn up at a private travel health clinic and have whatever jabs they recommend. But check with your GP first as some may be free on the NHS (diphtheria, polio and tetanus combined booster, typhoid, hepatitis A, cholera) and others may be cheaper.

Depending on where you’re going, you may have to pay for travel vaccinations against hepatitis B (when not combined with hepatitis A), Japanese encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, tuberculosis (TB) and yellow fever. Yellow fever vaccines are only available from designated centres, private clinics and selected GP surgeries.

You will cut your costs considerably – and not end up with more pricks than Aunty Mavis’s pin cushion – by carefully assessing the risks to decide whether you really need every immunisation going. A short beach break in an enclosed tourist resort is obviously going to be considerably safer than working for six months as an aid worker or in a medical setting.

When you travel can also be crucial: some diseases are more common at certain times of the year, for example, during the rainy season. Where you stay also affects risk: generally you’re more susceptible in rural areas than in urban ones, and if backpacking and staying in hostels or camping than if in a good hotel.

Whatever you opt for, be sure to check thoroughly with several suitably qualified tropical health clinicians first.

Comprehensive travel advice and health updates are available at:
•  MASTA: www.masta-travel-health.com
•  NHS Fit for Travel: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
•  The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC): www.nathnac.org

First published in Travel Africa edition 70, Spring 2015

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