IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|

Travel Health Journal


How to get vaccinated on the cheap

This is Part 2 of our Travel Vaccines on a Budget series. See Part 1 and Part 3.

If you’re on a budget, check if your doctor administers the vaccines. This may be your cheapest option. Alternatively, your local public health department may also administer travel vaccines at a reduced rate.

Also, there are travel clinics that provide discounted rates for their consultation and don’t mark-up the cost of the vaccines. To save time and money, find out if they charge for subsequent visits in case you need to finish the vaccine series; if they have all the vaccines you need at the time of your visit so you don’t have to return, especially if you’re in a rush before your departure; and if they can prescribe other travel-related medications like malaria pills and high altitude sickness pills or antibiotics for traveller’s diarrhea. Shop around to find a clinic that fits your budget. They are out there!

A note on cheaper vaccines abroad

There is a case to be made for finding cheaper vaccines abroad, especially if you’re a long term traveller and have an unexpected change of itinerary or the vaccine is not available back home, which may be the case for Cholera or Tick-borne Encephalitis. It’s not always a good idea to get vaccinated abroad if you  can do it before your departure. While vaccines may be cheaper, consider the following:

  1. Immunity takes time to build up so you’ll want to be protected before your trip.
  2. Vaccine quality may vary abroad and counterfeit vaccines and medications are a common occurrence worldwide.
  3. The vaccine you need may not be available at your destination.
  4. The vaccines may not be stored correctly or at the right temperature, reducing efficacy. They may not be administered correctly or at the right intervals, or hygienic practices may be poor.

If you’re looking for the subsequent dose of the vaccine series that you got back home, make sure it’s from the same manufacturer. There are different variants of travel vaccines all over the world and mixing them up may not afford you full protection.

Recommended vaccines for all travellers

If Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B were not part of your routine immunization schedule and you’re planning to travel, they are good value for your money since they provide long term protection (probably lifetime), a plus if you’re planning to do more travel in the future.

If you’re in a rush and just get the first dose, it affords good initial protection (but don’t forget to finish the series when you return from your trip to get maximum protection).

More about Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B risk areas and prevention.

Average cost of combined Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine (3 doses): $75 / dose

Don’t ignore required vaccines

One vaccine that you may be required to get is Yellow Fever, regardless of your trip itinerary or if risk is present at your destination. It’s a requirement for entry in many countries (either from all travellers or if you’re in transit through a country that currently has an epidemic or is at risk of an outbreak) because the mosquito vector is present in its territory.

If your destination country requires it, you need to show proof of vaccination. You won’t be able to get around it, unless you have a contraindication or a precaution against the vaccine like a compromised immune system, an allergy to a vaccine component, being over 60 years old, are pregnant or breastfeeding. In such cases, you’ll need to present a waiver signed by your healthcare practitioner to show border authorities explaining why you cannot get vaccinated. Be aware though, some border security agents do not always honour waivers.

To have a valid certificate, you need to be vaccinated 10 days before entering the country and it expires 10 years after vaccination. We hear from so many travellers who had to cancel or change their trip due to this rule. You should also know that only certain travel clinics are licensed to administer Yellow Fever so you will have to pay for the consultation fee in addition to the vaccine.

If you’re a Hajj or Umrah pilgrim, or seasonal worker, the Meningococcal Meningitis and Polio vaccines are also required vaccines for entry into Saudi Arabia.

More about Yellow Fever risk areas and prevention

Average cost of Yellow Fever vaccine (1 dose): $150


Our next post in our Travel Vaccines on a Budget series looks at the cost of selective travel vaccines.

Photo courtesy of Brian Hoskins, freeimages.