Despite believing that vaccines are generally beneficial, I too sometimes have my doubts. Not so much conspiracy theories or whether you can contract the actual disease from the vaccination. Yet, I am sometime weary of unknown side effects of new vaccination. I also often question myself as to whether a particular vaccine is really necessary – this, I ask myself more often considering how afraid I am of those little needles. Best example would be the flu vaccine: since I’m not in the population at risk, I skip this needle very happily. I’d rather handle the flu than its preventive needle.
This being said, with my plans of going through Australia, Indonesia, Asia, India and Eastern Europe, many vaccines were recommended. I found myself weighting the risks of contracting the disease and the effects of said diseases (some of which are just dreadful) against my fear of needles and the price tag attached to the said vaccines. Note : By price tag, I’m referring to both the price of the vaccine itself and the time taken off of work due to the postvaccination run down added to the actual phobia reactions, which makes every single needle into a traumatic experience…
Considering my phobia of needles, why would I willingly have 8 immunizations, grouped into 4 different vaccines, for a total of 7 injected doses?
Now, I don’t particularly feel like oversharing my medical history, but I do believe travel vaccination is a topic worth discussing. So I will share with you which vaccine I agreed to take and the justifications for them.
A bit of context: I already had my Hep B vaccination, so this allowed me to have ViVAXIM, the combined vaccine for the Typhoid Fever and Hep A. I also got the Adacel Vaccine, which targets Diphteria, Pertussis, Tetanus and Polio. These two were considered the bare minimum in terms of vaccination. They amounted to two needles and 210 $, which is much lower than the other two vaccines thanks to OHIP coverage. One way or another, as I walked into the office, I was set on having the Tetanus shot. I decided to go with the advice of the nurse and get ViVAXIM as well.
I gave more thought to the other two recommended vaccines: Ixiaro (Japanese Encephalitis) and Imovax (Rabies). So why was I more concerned about them? In all honesty, probably mainly because of the price tag and the fact they had not been labelled as the essentials.
The Japanese Encephalitis, which is present in the Middle East and South East Asia (India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Korea, etc), gets transmitted by mosquitoes (as does the Nile Fever here in Canada).
Rabies was another one of those diseases affecting the brain. It gets transmitted by animal bite, such as dogs, cats and raccoons (not all of which will appear aggressive, some could be lethargic). The vaccine isn’t a 100% effective against rabies: if you get bitten you must rinse the wound for several minutes with clean water and soap and you have to get treatment quickly. Getting the vaccine doesn’t mean you can avoid treatment, but from what I gathered it could lighten the treatment postexposure.
As with any vaccine, these vaccines may not protect 100% of people who receive it. Really, to me, vaccines are about playing the odds. Looking back, if my private insurance hadn’t covered the said vaccines, I might hot have taken the rabies and the ViVAXIM shot. I was set on getting the tetanus shot going in and I do believe I would have gotten the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine regardless.
I’m not pretending to be a doctor or pharmacist and know everything there is to know about vaccines. This information is about what I have understood of the process and the reasoning behind the vaccines I agreed to take. It’s about the considerations that came into play when I decided to get travel vaccinations : health, side effects, costs and, in my case, fear of needles. I did go back to the nurse to ask why the rabies vaccine was recommended, if treatment was still required upon exposure. She answered that less vaccines post-exposure would be necessary and that hemoglobin wouldn’t be required. This would be the main advantage, as hemoglobin can be hard to find depending where you are and not necessarily safe, since not necessarily tested the way HemaQuebec does here.
If you understand French, the blog Le Pharmachien has this neat strip about vaccination misconceptions. This is a neat blog I follow and I suggest you check it out : http://www.lepharmachien.com/vaccins/.
Other sources I have looked at are :