Whether you’re planning to go on a holiday this summer or you have a business trip coming up, you may need certain vaccines to protect you from diseases that are endemic or common in countries outside of the UK.
Some of these vaccines are free of charge for UK residents as part of the NHS’s routine immunisation schedule, but you may have to shoulder the cost of others. Note that not all GP clinics are signed up with the NHS to offer certain vaccines free of cost, so check with clinic staff beforehand to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
For information on travel vaccines that you can receive at no charge and answers to common queries about travel vaccines, read on.
When should I get vaccinated?
Many vaccines, especially ones that are recommended for travel, require a few weeks or even months to take full effect and provide you with maximum protection against diseases. Moreover, some vaccines require multiple doses to take effect.
The rabies vaccine, for example, is administered in 3 doses, over a period of 28 days. It is important therefore, that you visit a travel health professional or your GP well enough in advance that you are protected by the time you jet set.
Which travel vaccines do I need?
In order to figure out which vaccines are necessary for your next travel destination, you can either book an appointment with us or your GP for advice or visit the TravelHealthPro website, which has been set up by the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
NHS’s Fit for Travel website is also a good place to turn to for information on various travel destinations and any endemic or common diseases that may be found in these destinations.
If your holiday destination has a high risk of transmission of any vaccine-preventable disease, you are encouraged to visit a travel health professional or GP well before your trip. Protecting yourself with these vaccines will save you needless worry during your trip and prevent you from incurring steep healthcare costs in countries abroad.
Why do I need travel vaccines?
Some countries may have a high risk of transmission of diseases that are easily preventable through vaccination. Moreover, those who are ill, have compromised immune systems or suffer from chronic diseases may experience severe complications from diseases that they may contract after travelling to certain countries.
The following groups of people also have a higher risk of contracting diseases that are prevalent in their travel destinations and should prioritise getting vaccinated before travelling:
- Infants and the elderly
- Aid workers
- Those who are going to be working in a healthcare setting during their trip
- Those who will have contact with animals during their trip
- Those travelling to rural areas
- Those who are going for long trips
- Those who will be outdoors for extended periods (i.e campers)
Aside from protecting yourself and your loved ones from diseases that are prevalent in your holiday destination, you may also need vaccines to even legally enter a country.
Some countries require you to produce an International Certificate of Vaccination before you can clear immigration, so you are advised to do your research on your travel destination’s immigration policies before you set out for your trip.
For example, travellers to Saudi Arabia must produce proof of vaccination against some strains of meningitis – specifically, a certificate proving that they have received the meningococcal ACWY vaccine.
If you have recently been to a country that has a high risk of transmission of yellow fever, many countries, including China, Egypt and Indonesia, will require you to produce a yellow fever certificate – that is, proof that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever.
Even if a certificate of vaccination is not required for you to enter a certain country, you are recommended to protect yourself with the vaccines that have been recommended for that country by NaTHNaC or your travel health professional.
Where can I get travel vaccines?
Travel vaccination services are available at many GPs as well as private vaccination or travel clinics. Call up your GP or travel health professional in advance to enquire about the availability of the specific vaccines that you will need for your destination country.
Travel clinics will also be able to provide you with other travel health advice such as outbreak information, food and water safety tips and disease prevention methods.
Some GP practices are also eligible to provide NHS vaccinations free of charge, so check if your GP of choice is in this category. If the GP practice is not signed up with the NHS or if you are visiting a private vaccination clinic, make sure you enquire about the exact vaccines that you need for your trip, the dosage and the price of these vaccines.
Some pharmacies also offer travel healthcare services, so if such a pharmacy is more convenient for you to visit, you can head there before your trip to get vaccinated.
Note that you can only get the yellow fever vaccine from clinics that are designated yellow fever vaccination centres.
Which travel vaccines are free?
You can receive some travel vaccines free of charge at GPs that are signed up with the NHS. They are offered for free to UK residents because the diseases that they protect against are considered a major threat to public health.
Before you visit or make an appointment with the GP practice, you may want to phone and check whether they are indeed signed up to offer free NHS vaccinations.
The following vaccines for travel are available at no charge at GPs signed up with the NHS:
Note that these vaccines will not be provided free of charge at private vaccination clinics or pharmacies that offer travel health services.
Which travel vaccines are not free?
Other travel vaccines, which may be just as essential for your trip, cannot be obtained free of cost. Enquire about the number of doses of the vaccine that you will require and the overall price or price per dose from your GP or travel health clinic before you make an appointment.
The vaccines that protect against the following diseases will have to be paid for:
Guidelines provided by NaTHNaC and the NHS are a good place to start researching about the vaccines that you may or may not need for your upcoming trip.
However, remember to consult a travel health professional or your GP for the latest updates on disease outbreaks in your destination country, advice on which vaccines you should get before your trip and more tips for safe travel.
Book an appointment with us at least a month or two before your trip so that we can provide you with everything you need to travel safely.