Backpacking Vaccines and Immunisations

Immunisation is an essential protective measure when travelling abroad as it prevents or reduces the severity of many infectious diseases that you may contract in a foreign country. Since traveller's do not have a natural immunity and resistance to local infections, many countries have procedures in place where travel immunisation is a requirement to enter their borders.

Before booking your plane ticket and holiday accommodation, it is important to visit your travel immunisation clinic or general practitioner and familiarise yourself with the vaccines that may be required at your holiday destination. Your travel agent will also be able to advise you on the necessary travel immunisations for your destination of choice and will inform you if an International Certificate of Vaccination is required for your upcoming trip.

Travel immunisation should be considered up to 8 weeks prior to your date of departure although many vaccinations can be taken just 4 weeks before you embark on your trip. You may experience side effects after some vaccines so it is advisable to complete your travel immunisation well in advance. When visiting your travel immunisation clinic, you will need to provide the following information as it will determine which vaccines may be necessary :

  • Pre-existing health conditions
  • Countries you are visiting
  • Length of stay in each country as longer visits may predispose you to less common infections
  • Date of departure and arrival to cater for seasonal illnesses
  • Type of tour and travel as backpacking carries greater risks of certain infections

Travel immunisation is essential in most developing, topical and sub-tropical countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and South America, for a range of infectious diseases that are prevalent at these destinations. The main vaccines that are necessary for most overseas travel include poliomyelitis, hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Other travel vaccines may only be required depending on whether your travel destination is considered a high risk area for the respective infectious diseases.

  1. Meningococcal vaccines are necessary for trips to sub-Saharan Africa, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Saudi Arabia. It is particularly important for backpackers.
  2. Tetanus vaccine may be required for most parts of the world but immunity usually lasts for up to 10 years.
  3. Yellow fever immunisation is necessary for traveller's visiting sub-Saharan Africa and South America.
  4. Cholera immunisation is particularly important for visitors to the Indian subcontinent, Far East, Africa and South America.
  5. Hepatitis B vaccines are necessary for trips to sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands.
  6. Japanese encephalitis immunisation is required for those travelling to South East Asia, the Far East and north eastern areas of Australia. It is particularly important for backpackers.
  7. Rabies immunisation is usually required for those coming into close contact with animals, particularly dogs.
  8. Tick-borne encephalitis may be an immunisation consideration for those travelling tp eastern and western Europe, Scandinavia, Soviet Union and China. It is particularly important for backpackers.

Malaria is another concern for most traveller's particularly to high risk areas, sub-tropical and tropical destinations. While there is no effective malaria vaccine, appropriate prophylactic medication is required ahead of time to provide protection against contracting malaria. Inform your travel clinic or general practitioner if you plan to scuba dive at your holiday destination as it is a consideration for certain types of anti-malarial drugs.

Attending to your travel immunisation needs at the earliest possible stage of your travel plans is essential to avoid disappointment on the date of your departure. Ensure that necessary documentation like an International Certificate of Vaccination is available ahead of time. Irrespective of your health and wellness beliefs, travel immunisation is not a matter of choice but a necessity.