Vaccinations For Southeast Asia and South America
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That’s it! Our last travel vaccination for Southeast Asia and South America is complete. I think we are now vaccinated to go anywhere we want in the world in relative safety.
Starting on the journey to getting vaccinated though was a minefield. There are so many variables and no one wants to recommend anything. It is down to you to find the information, digest it and make the decision for yourself.
There are also added complications of the length of our journey, not knowing how long we will be in a country and the fact that we are taking two young kids with us. Therefore, I am hoping that this will be useful to someone.
This is not advice. This is the story of what we decided would be best for us. Seek appropriate advice from a specialist. The links in each section will provide you with more information and should support the information I present below.
Vaccinations available on the NHS
Given that we do not have buckets of money to throw at this expedition, I decided that I would first approach our GP to see what was both recommended and available from the NHS.
After completing a form (twice for all four of us), a lovely nurse rang me back to discuss. Her advice was to give us all the vaccinations that were available to us. Plus, she would give us any boosters that we needed to make sure we were up to date.
The children had already received their primary course of vaccinations. Therefore, no boosters were needed for them. They had to receive two vaccinations: hepatitis A and typhoid.
Dan needed a tetanus booster plus a combined hepatitis A and typhoid shot (combined is not available for kids) and I only needed the typhoid injection.
Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for lots of areas around the world, particularly those where sanitation is poor. It can be passed in food and water that has been contaminated by the poo of an infected person.
For adults: It only requires one dose initially, but with a second dose 6-12 months later. Once you’ve had the second dose, it should give you 10 years of protection.
For children: Again, one dose initially, with another 6 – 12 months later. If they receive the second dose within two years though, they should receive protection for at least a year.
The initially three doses are part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme and have been for a long time. Tetanus is the one recommended for travel and a booster (for all three) will be offered if you haven’t had one in the last 10 years.
Tetanus is caught from getting the bacteria in a wound. It is found all over the world and if you get it then it can be quite serious. It requires intensive and fast treatment.
For adults: Most adults will only require a booster if they have had the primary course as a child. If they haven’t had it then they will need three initially doses. Boosters are given every 10 years.
For children: The majority of children will be protected by the primary course. Older children should consider a booster.
Typhoid is a risk in areas where sanitation is poor and southeast Asia and South America are regions identified as having a higher risk. You get it from contaminated food and water, but it can also be passed on from person to person via their poo.
The vaccination for typhoid does not provide 100% protection so it is recommended that you take further precautions, such as drinking bottled or boiled water only.
Both adults & children: One dose is required at least 1 month before travel. The vaccination protects for 3 years.
Vaccinations for Southeast Asia
We went to our local Boots for a travel consultation to start with. But thanks to my need for thoroughness, I’d already done my research. The list that we were given was exactly what I was expecting.
Japanese Encephalitis was encouraged, but hepatitis B and rabies were a choice for us to make. After doing our research and deciding that if they were free wouldn’t have even been having this conversation, we opted to have them too.
This is a mosquito-spread virus that infects the brain. Found almost exclusively in Southeast1 Asia, this vaccine is recommended for those planning longer stays in the region and those planning camping and hiking trips.
It is recommended that it is combined with good bite avoidance practices, such as covering up and using insect repellents.
For adults and children: Two doses, 28 days apart. It is unknown how long the protection lasts for, therefore if you were vaccinated more than 12 months ago, it is recommended that you get a booster.
Cost: Approx. £100 per dose per person.
Hepatitis B is spread through bodily fluids and blood. Those most at risk are those who might have unprotected sex or want to get tattoos or piercings abroad.
Children are considered at higher risk because they like making friends and sharing cuddles. Plus, if children are infected then they have a higher risk of chronic hepatitis B.
For adults: Three doses are required. There is an accelerated schedule which can be administered at 0, 7 and 21 days. After a booster at 12 months, the protection should last for 20 years.
For children: The same as above but the accelerated schedule takes long. Doses are administered at 0 days, 1 month and 2 months.
Cost: Approx. £50 per dose per adult. Approx. £30 per dose per child.
Rabies is spread through animal bites and scratches. It is recommended for children in particular as they are more likely to befriend a stray cat but should be considered if you are considering contact with any animals.
Unlike some of the others of this list, the rabies shots don’t stop you from getting it. What they do instead is give you more time to get treatment and mean that you won’t need rabies immunoglobulin, which can be harder to get in some remote hospitals.
Cost: Approx. £60 per dose per person.
Vaccinations for South America
When we added South America to our list of travel destinations, we knew that we would need to consult our travel vaccinations list again. Luckily, there was a lot of overlap with shots needed for SE Asia, but there was one addition.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-transmitted infection found in parts of South America, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.
Although we will likely be avoiding at-risk areas, some countries require you to provide certification to prove you have been vaccinated if you have visited an infected country. Therefore, after being vaccinated you will receive a little yellow book to indicate that you have received the vaccination.
For adults and children: One dose required, and it provides lifelong protection.
Cost: Approx. £60 per person.
Do you need anti-malarial tablets?
This question can only be answered if you know where you are going. Southeast Asia and South America are generally low-risk malaria areas. Some regions have a very low risk or no risk at all.
We decided that we would not be taking anti-malarial tablets. This is based on two reasons:
- There are some great malaria risk maps online. We will be using these to plan our routes and intend to stick to those areas with the least risk.
- We will practice bite avoidance in all areas and will keep covered, sleep in safe places and use insect repellent out and about.
On top of this, we will keep up to date using the website above to see if there are any changes to risk levels. Plus, it can be used to monitor any other health risks.
Where to get your travel vaccinations in the UK?
We had our vaccinations done at Boots. For us, there weren’t many other options nearby. Some places didn’t other yellow fever vaccinations or had limited availability of hepatitis vaccinations.
There may be other centres that offer travel vaccinations in your area but some nationwide choices include:
It is also worth speaking to your GP as they are likely to know the popular clinics in the region and have an idea of the price too.
Managing children with travel vaccinations
Naturally, this was one of the hardest parts of having the vaccinations. We knew that there would be tears but, of course, we knew that we were doing it for the right reasons.
Our top tips for managing children having vaccinations are:
- Talk to them about what is happening and why. Even though our children are quite young we always talk through moments like this. Plus, we love a dress rehearsal. Ahead of the day, we had a run-through of what would happen.
- Minimise what they see in advance. If you can keep them out of the room, or at least distracted, while other people are having their vaccinations.
- Think about how they sit during the vaccination. The best position for us was sat sideways across our lap with one hand behind our back and the one in use pinned to their side by us. This gives you a free hand for the next tip.
- Get the tech out. During one set of vaccinations, the pharmacist loaded up YouTube and the kids were able to watch that while everything was going on. It worked a charm. If that’s not an option, whip your phone out.
- Let them choose plasters in advance. Our kids were much happier knowing that there was a plaster with their favourite TV character on it waiting for them afterwards. Also, give them the plaster whether they need it or not. That way they can show everyone how brave they’ve been.
- Have a treat lined up for afterwards. We had everything from chocolate to cuddly toys at the ready. They got the toy regardless of how they behaved because it was deserved. They were always so brave.
- Tell everyone how brave they were and get them to show off their plaster. They’ll enjoy the attention they get from it and it will help them get through the next round.
Vaccinations when breastfeeding
This caused us a bit of drama in the first instance. When we went for our first travel consultation I told them I was still feeding Alice (who is aged two years old). We then went through the rest of the paperwork and Dan, Emily and Alice all received doses of Japanese Encephalitis vaccination.
When it came to my turn, however, the system refused because I was breastfeeding. Even though the person I was breastfeeding had received the vaccination herself.
After this, I had to go away and do my research on each of the vaccinations to check their safety and suitable for breastfeeding. Like with many medicines little research is done around breastfeeding and vaccinations, and even less with “older” breastfed children.
My go-to in these situations is The Breastfeeding Network’s Drugs in Breastmilk service. They collate information about a variety of drugs and procedures to check their safety for the breastfeeding mother. They have helped many people continue to breastfeed whilst receiving the medications they need.
I contacted them personally about the Japanese encephalitis vaccination and got sent the following from Dr Wendy Jones:
“Summary of Use during Lactation:
Data concerning the safety of Japanese encephalitis vaccine during breastfeeding are not available. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several health professional organizations state that in general vaccines given to a nursing mother do not affect the safety of breastfeeding for mothers or infants. Therefore, breastfeeding is not a contraindication to Japanese encephalitis vaccine in mothers who require it. Breastfed infants should be vaccinated according to the routine recommended schedules.”
Another great resource for breastfeeding and vaccinations is this article from Kellymom (another breastfeeding guru). It includes collated information from a variety of credible sources regarding the safety of vaccinations on breastfeeding mothers and infants.
We made the personal decision that given the age of our daughter and the information above that any risks were negligible. Consequently, we chose to continue with the vaccinations as originally planned.
Getting vaccinations in another country
Unfortunately, we left the getting of vaccination a bit late. This was largely due to the recommendations found all over the internet that said to speak to your GP 6 weeks before you travel.
We did this, but it meant that we did not have enough time for the children to get their final hepatitis B vaccination.
When we got the first vaccination done, we discussed this with the travel consultant who agrees with us that we should give the first two doses. The plan is to get the third dose whilst we are visiting the USA.
I have found a clinic near where to we are staying and have emailed them with all the details we have. They have said that they can organise this for us and to make contact again nearer the time.
At this point, I do not know how much this will be and whether the process will be easy or difficult. But I will update you when it is done.
Cost of vaccinations
To date, we have spent £1972 on vaccinations and still have the last two vaccinations to get when we are in the USA.
We have some money aside to get the boosters when we get home, with the aim that if we get them done then it saves us some serious money in the long run. Paying out this amount of money if we want to do this again would be ridiculous.
Deciding which vaccinations to have
Hopefully, this article has helped you make the decision that is right for you. We made a decision based on what we felt was right for us and it was with the help of much research and planning. Do your research, get informed and make your decision armed with that information.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.