I did a lot of research about travel vaccinations and I thought I was pretty clued up on what I needed, when I needed it by and how much it would cost. Although it is important to research your visiting destinations and the health risks, I would say that this is one of those things that you can’t rely on the internet for and you should always seek advice from your doctor.
I wasn’t registered at a doctors in London. I’d lived here two years without needing to go so I hadn’t bothered. This made things tricky as I had to find somewhere, register, wait to get on the books, book an appointment and then see the nurse for an induction all before I could have a travel appointment.
Although this was stressful for me, most of you will have a regular doctors that you know well and trust.
I finally turned up for my appointment and it was one of the most stressful things I have had to deal with whilst planning for this trip. The nurse was so incompetent I did not feel safe and ended up having to tell her which vaccinations I needed. No exaggeration!! This didn’t exactly giving me much confidence! I had gone there to get advice and reassurance (as well as my jabs) and it just made me feel worse.
Bringing in the experts
The next day I booked an appointment at a specialist travel clinic in Soho Square, London (Destination Health), conveniently right by my work. This experience couldn’t have been more different. During my appointment, Dr. Katy went through everything I needed to know: all the options for jabs, how much they would cost, when I needed them by, how they would affect me. She knew every single place I was going and what I needed and discussed the options and risks for each one. I walked away, with a timescale and action plan in hand, feeling confident and clear about it all and reassured that I had plenty of time and nothing to worry about.
Cheap is not always cheerful
I’m always looking for the best deal and will always kick myself if I know I could have got something cheaper somewhere else. But this was an exception. In this situation I would much rather pay more and get a service that I trust. I also received lots of additional information that I wouldn’t have got from the NHS nurse.
Although my NHS experience was a bad one, Dr. Katy said that this is quite often the case. It is not their fault, they are just not trained. You want to go off on your trip feeling fully protected and/or aware of the risks and how else to protect yourself. This was really important for me – much more so than knowing I had packed all the right gear, or had planned all the best places on my route.
Malaria and your route
If you are visiting lots of different areas and climates you need to make sure you are fully aware of the risks of malaria.
The best way to do this is to look at the malaria maps on Fit for Travel. I did this for each place we were going to and wrote down where the medium and high risk zones were. Be aware that anti-malaria protection is expensive so if you are only visiting one place that is a risk zone, it may not be worth the cost. This happened to us so we decided to take that destination off our route.
As the rest of the places we are going to be visiting in Bolivia are not high risk, we didn’t want to spend £40 each to go to Santa Cruz for two days, so this was removed. You have to weigh up the risk versus the cost and if necessary re-plan your route so you keep the malaria risk zones as close together as possible. Make sure you research and discuss all the anti-malaria treatments available as there as some with more side affects than others (normally the cheaper ones) and you should consider the length of time you need to take them when making these decisions. It’s not great for your body to be on antibiotics for vast amounts of time.
Know the risks!
As long as you are aware of the risks, how to protect yourself and have all the necessary jabs you will be fine. Remember to not only take your vaccination certificate but to also take a copy of it. You won’t be able to get into some destinations without it.
Here are my top tips for travel vaccinations: